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Bantam Books by Alvin Toffler 

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This edition contains the complete text 
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A Bantam Book I published in association with William Morrow & Co., 


PRINTING HISTORY William Morrow edition published March 1980 
5 printings September 1980 
A Literary Guild Selection October 1979 
A Selection of Preferred Choice Bookplan October 1979 and 
the Macmillan Book Club May 1980. 

Serialized in Industry Week, February 1980; East/West Network, 
February 1980; Across the Board, March 1980; Independent News 
Alliance, March 1980; Rotarian, April 1980; Mechanix Illustrated, May 
1980; Reader's Digest, May 1980; Video Review, May 1980; Journal of 
Insurance, July 1980; Reader's Digest (Canada), August 1980; and 
Modern Office Procedures, September 1980. 

Bantam edition /April 1981 13 printings through May 1989 

THE THIRD WAVE also appears in translation: French (Editions 
Deneol); German (Bertelsmann); Japanese (NHK Books); Spanish 
(Plaza y Janes and Editorial Diana); Danish (Chr. Erichsens Forlag); 
Dutch (Uilgenerij L.J. Veen); Hebrew (Am Oved); Portuguese 
(Distribuidora Record); Serbo-Croatian (Jugoslavia); Swedish) (Esselte 
Info AB); Turkish (Altin Kitaplar); Chinese (Dushu-Peking); U.K. 
(William Collins & Sons); India (Pan Books); Greece (Edition Cactus); 
Poland (Pantswowy Instytut Wydawniczy); Romania (Editura Politica); 
Portuguese (Livros do Brazil); Indonesia (P.T. Pantja Simpati); Korea 
(Korean Economic Daily). 

All rights reserved. 

Copyright © 1980 by Alvin Toffler. 

Cover art copyright © 1981 by Bantam Books. 

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17 16 15 14 13 


Whose convincing arguments helped me decide to write The Third 
Wave. Her tough, tenacious criticism of my ideas and her 
professionalism as an editor are reflected on every page. 

Her contributions to this book extend far beyond those one would 
expect of a colleague, an intellectual companion, a friend, lover and 

Did we come here to laugh or cry? Are we dying or being born? 

Terra Nostra by Carlos Fuentes 


The Revolutionary Premise The Leading Edge Waves of the Future 
Goldbugs and Assassins 



The Violent Solution Living Batteries The Technological Womb The 
Vermilion Pagoda The Streamlined Family The Covert Curriculum 
Immortal Beings The Music Factory The Paper Blizzard 


The Meaning of the Market The Sexual Split 

4 / BREAKING THE CODE Standardization Specialization 
Synchronization Concentration Maximization Centralization 



The Integrators The Integrational Engine The Power Pyramids The 


The Represento-Kit The Global Law Factory The Reassurance Ritual 


Changing Horses The Golden Spike 

Gas Pumps in the Garden The Margarine Plantation Integration a 
VAmericain Socialist Imperialism 

9 / INDUST-REALITY The Progress Principle The Software of Time 
Repackaging Space The "Sjuff" of Reality The Ultimate Why 




The Sun and Beyond Tools of Tomorrow Machines in Orbit Into the 
Depths The Gene Industry The Techno-Rebels 

13 / DE-MASSIFYING THE MEDIA A Warehouse of Images The De- 
massified Media Blip Culture 


The Social Memory 

15 / BEYOND MASS PRODUCTION Mouse Milk and T-Shirts The 
Presto Effect 

The Death of the Secretary? 

The Telecommuters 

The Home-Centered Society 

17 / FAMILIES OF THE FUTURE The Pro-Nuclear Campaign Non- 
Nuclear Life-Styles 

The Child-free Culture 

"Hot" Relationships 

Love Plus 

The Campaign for Child Labor 
The Electronic Expanded Family 

Parental Malpractice 
Easing into Tomorrow 


The Accelerative Economy The De-massified Society Redefining the 
Corporation A Pentagon of Pressures The Multipurpose Corporation 
Many Bottom Lines 

197 DECODING THE NEW RULES The End ofNine-to-Five The 
Sleepless Gorgon Schedule-a-Friend Computers and Marijuana The 
Post-Standardized Mind The New Matrix Small-Within-Big Is Beautiful 
The Organization of the Future 

20 / THE RISE OF THE PROSUMER The Invisible Economy 

Overeaters and Widows The Do-It-Yourselfers Outsiders and Insiders 
Prosumer Life-Styles Third Wave Economics The End of Marketization 

21 / THE MENTAL MAELSTROM The New Image of Nature Designing 
Evolution The Progress Tree The Future of Time Space Travelers 
Wholism and Halfism The Cosmic Playroom The Termite Lesson 

221 THE CRACK-UP OF THE NATION Abkhazians and lexicons From 
the Top Down The Global Corporation The Emerging "T-Net" Planetary 
Consciousness Myths and Inventions 

23 / GANDHI WITH SATELLITES The Second Wave Strategy The 
Broken Success Model The First Wave Strategy The Third Wave 
Question Sun, Shrimp, and Chips The Original Prosumers The Starting 

Tomorrow's Basics 

The Concept of Practopia 
The Wrong Question 

The Attack on Loneliness 

The Heroin Structure 


The Secret of the Cults Life-Organizers and Semi-Cults 


Growing Up Different The New Worker The Prosumer Ethic The 
Configurative Me 

Private Armies 

The Messiah Complex 
The World Web 
The Inter-Weave Problem 
The Decisional Speedup 
The Collapse of Consensus 
The Decisional Implosion 


Semi-Direct Democracy Decision Division The Expanding Elites The 
Coming Super-Struggle A Destiny to Create 




In a time when terrorists play death-games with hostages, as 
currencies careen amid rumors of a third World War, as embassies 
flame and storm troopers lace up their boots in many lands, we stare in 
horror at the headlines. The price of gold — that sensitive barometer of 
fear — breaks all records. Banks tremble. Inflation rages out of control. 
And the governments of the world are reduced to paralysis or 

Faced with all this, a massed chorus of Cassandras fills the air with 
doom-song. The proverbial man hi the street says the world has "gone 
mad," while the expert points to all the trends leading toward 

This book offers a sharply different view. 

It contends that the world has not swerved into lunacy, and that, in fact, 
beneath the clatter and jangle of seemingly senseless events there lies 
a startling and potentially hopeful pattern. This book is about that 
pattern and that hope. 

The Third Wave is for those who think the human story, far from 
ending, has only just begun. 

A powerful tide is surging across much of the world today, creating a 
new, often bizarre, environment in which to work, play, marry, raise 
children, or retire. In this bewildering context, businessmen swim 
against highly erratic economic currents; politicians see their ratings 
bob wildly up and down; universities, hospitals, and other institutions 
battle desperately against inflation. Value systems splinter and crash, 
while the lifeboats of family, church, and state are hurled madly about. 

Looking at these violent changes, we can regard them as 



isolated evidences of instability, breakdown, and disaster. Yet, if we 
stand back for a longer view, several things become apparent that 
otherwise go unnoticed. 

To begin with, many of today's changes are not independent of one 
another. Nor are they random. For example, the crack-up of the 
nuclear family, the global energy crisis, the spread of cults and cable 
television, the rise of flextime and new fringe-benefit packages, the 
emergence of separatist movements from Quebec to Corsica, may all 
seem like isolated events. Yet precisely the reverse is true. These and 
many other seemingly unrelated events or trends are niter-connected. 
They are, in fact, parts of a much larger phenomenon: the death of 
industrialism and the rise of a new civilization. 

So long as we think of them as isolated changes and miss this larger 
significance, we cannot design a coherent, effective response to them. 
As individuals, our personal decisions remain aimless or self- 
canceling. As governments, we stumble from crisis to crash program, 
lurching into the future without plan, without hope, without vision. 

Lacking a systematic framework for understanding the clash of forces 
in today's world, we are like a ship's crew, trapped in a storm and 
trying to navigate between dangerous reefs without compass or chart. 
In a culture of warring specialisms, drowned in fragmented data and 
fine-toothed analysis, synthesis is not merely useful — it is crucial. 

For this reason, The Third Wave is a book of large-scale synthesis. It 
describes the old civilization in which many of us grew up, and 
presents a careful, comprehensive picture of the new civilization 
bursting into being in our midst. 

So profoundly revolutionary is this new civilization that it challenges all 
our old assumptions. Old ways of thinking, old formulas, dogmas, and 
ideologies, no matter how cherished or how useful hi the past, no 
longer fit the facts. The world that is fast emerging from the clash of 
new values and technologies, new geopolitical relationships, new life- 
styles and modes of communication, demands wholly new ideas and 
analogies, classifications and concepts. We cannot cram the 
embryonic world of tomorrow into yesterday's conventional 
cubbyholes. Nor are the orthodox attitudes or moods appropriate. 

Thus, as the description of this strange new civilization unfolds in these 
pages, we will find reason to challenge the chic pessimism that is so 
prevalent today. Despair — salable and self-indulgent — has dominated 
the culture for a decade or 


more. The Third Wave concludes that despair is not only a sin (as C. 

P. Snow, I believe, once put it), but that it is also unwarranted. 

I am under no Pollyannaish illusions, It is scarcely necessary today to 
elaborate on the real dangers facing us — from nuclear annihilation and 
ecological disaster to racial fanaticism or regional violence. I have 
written about these dangers myself in the past, and will no doubt do so 
again. War, economic debacle, large-scale technological disaster — any 
of these could alter future history in catastrophic ways. 

Nevertheless, as we explore the many new relationships springing 
up — between changing energy patterns and new forms of family life, or 
between advanced manufacturing methods and the self-help 
movement, to mention only a few — we suddenly discover that many of 
the very same conditions that produce today's greatest perils also open 
fascinating new potentials. 

The Third Wave shows us these new potentials. It argues that, in the 
very midst of destruction and decay, we can now find striking 
evidences of birth and life. It shows clearly and, I think, indisputably, 
that — with intelligence and a modicum of luck — the emergent 
civilization can be made more sane, sensible, and sustainable, more 
decent and more democratic than any we have ever known. 

If the main argument of this book is correct, there are powerful reasons 
for long-range optimism, even if the transitional years immediately 
ahead are likely to be stormy and crisis-ridden. 

As I've worked on The Third Wave in the past few years, lecture 
audiences have repeatedly asked me how it differs from my earlier 
work Future Shock. 

Author and reader never see quite the same things in a book. I view 
The Third Wave as radically different from Future Shock in both form 
and focus. To begin with, it covers a much wider sweep of time — past 
as well as future. It is more prescriptive. Its architecture is different. 

(The perceptive reader will find that its structure mirrors its central 
metaphor — the clash of waves.) 

Substantively, the differences are even more pronounced. While 
Future Shock called for certain changes to be made, it emphasized the 
personal and social costs of change. The Third Wave, while taking 
note of the difficulties of adapta- 


tion, emphasizes the equally important costs of not changing certain 
things rapidly enough. 

Moreover, while in the earlier book I wrote of the "premature arrival of 
the future," I did not attempt to sketch the emergent society of 
tomorrow in any comprehensive or systematic way. The focus of the 
book was on the processes of change, not the directions of change. 

In this book, the lens is reversed. I concentrate less on acceleration, as 
such, and more on the destinations toward which change is carrying 
us. Thus one work focuses more heavily on process, the other on 
structure. For these reasons, the two books are designed to fit 
together, not as source and sequel, but as complementary parts of a 
much larger whole. Each is very different. But each casts light on the 

In attempting so large-scale a synthesis, it has been necessary to 
simplify, generalize, and compress. (Without doing so, it would have 
been impossible to cover so much ground in a single volume.) As a 
result, some historians may take issue with the way this book divides 
civilization into only three parts — a First Wave agricultural phase, a 
Second Wave industrial phase, and a Third Wave phase now 

It is easy to point out that agricultural civilization consisted of quite 
different cultures, and that industrialism itself has actually gone through 
many successive stages of development One could, no doubt, chop 
the past (and the future) into 12 or 38 or 157 pieces. But, in so doing, 
we would lose sight of the major divisions hi a clutter of subdivisions. 

Or we would require a whole library, instead of a single book, to cover 
the same territory. For our purposes, the simpler distinctions are more 
useful, even if gross. 

The vast scope of this book also required the use of other shortcuts. 
Thus I occasionally reify civilization itself, arguing that First Wave or 
Second Wave civilization "did" this or that. Of course, I know, and 
readers know, that civilizations don't do anything; people do. But 
attributing this or that to a civilization now and then saves time and 

Similarly, intelligent readers understand that no one — historian or 
futurist, planner, astrologer, or evangelist — "knows" or can "know" the 
future. When I say something "will" happen, I assume the reader will 
make appropriate discount for uncertainty. To have done otherwise 
would have burdened the book with an unreadable and unnecessary 
jungle of reservations. Social forecasts, moreover, are never value-free 


scientific, no matter how much computerized data they use. The Third 
Wave is not an objective forecast, and it makes no pretense to being 
scientifically proven. 

To say this, however, is not to suggest that the ideas in this book are 
whimsical or unsystematic. In fact, as will soon become apparent, this 
work is based on massive evidence and on what might be called a 
semi-systematic model of civilization and our relationships to it. 

It describes the dying industrial civilization in terms of a "techno- 
sphere," a "socio-sphere," an "info-sphere," and a "power-sphere," 
then sets out to show how each of these is undergoing revolutionary 
change in today's world. It attempts to show the relationships of these 
parts to each other, as well as the "bio-sphere" and "psycho-sphere" — 
that structure of psychological and personal relationships through 
which changes in the outer world affect our most private lives. 

The Third Wave holds that a civilization also makes use of certain 
processes and principles, and that it develops its own "super-ideology" 
to explain reality and to justify its own existence. 

Once we understand how these parts, processes, and principles are 
interrelated, and how they transform one another, touching off powerful 
currents of change, we gain a much clearer understanding of the giant 
wave of change battering our lives today. 

The grand metaphor of this work, as should already be apparent, is 
that of colliding waves of change. This image is not original. Norbert 
Elias, in his The Civilizing Process, refers to "a wave of advancing 
integration over several centuries." In 1837, a writer described the 
settlement of the American West in terms of successive "waves" — first 
the pioneers, then the farmers, then the business interests, the "third 
wave" of migration. In 1893, Frederick Jackson Turner cited and 
employed the same analogy in his classic essay The Significance of 
the Frontier in American History. It is not, therefore, the wave metaphor 
that is fresh, but its application to today's civ-ilizational shift. 

This application proves to be extremely fruitful. The wave idea is not 
only a tool for organizing vast masses of highly diverse information. It 
also helps us see beneath the raging surface of change. When we 
apply the wave metaphor, much that was confusing becomes clear. 

The familiar often appears in a dazzlingly fresh light. 



Once I began thinking in terms of waves of change, colliding and 
overlapping, causing conflict and tension around us, it changed my 
perception of change itself. In every field, from education and health to 
technology, from personal life to politics, it became possible to 
distinguish those innovations that are merely cosmetic, or just 
extensions of the industrial past, from those that are truly revolutionary. 

Even the most powerful metaphor, however, is capable of yielding only 
partial truth. No metaphor tells the whole story from all sides, and 
hence no vision of the present, let alone the future, can be complete or 
final. When I was a Marxist during my late teens and early twenties — 
now more than a quarter of a century ago — I, like many young people, 
thought I had all the answers. I soon learned that my "answers" were 
partial, one-sided, and obsolete. More to the point, I came to 
appreciate that the right question is usually more important than the 
right answer to the wrong question. 

My hope i« thai The Third Wave, at the same time that it provides 
answers, asks many fresh questions. 

The recognition that no knowledge can be complete, no metaphor 
entire, is itself humanizing. It counteracts fanati-cism. It grants even to 
adversaries the possibility of partial I mill, and to oneself the possibility 
of error. This possibility is especially present in large-scale synthesis. 
Yet, as the critic George Steiner has written, "To ask larger questions 
is to risk getting things wrong. Not to ask them at all is to constrain the 
life of understanding." 

In a time of exploding change — with personal lives being torn apart, the 
existing social order crumbling, and a fantastic new way of life 
emerging on the horizon — asking the very largest of questions about 
our future is not merely a matter of intellectual curiosity. It is a matter of 

Whether we know it or not, most of us are already engaged in either 
resisting — or creating — the new civilization. The Third Wave will, I 
hope, help each of us to choose. 


A new civilization is emerging in our lives, and blind men everywhere 
are trying to suppress it. This new civilization brings with it new family 
styles; changed ways of working, loving, and living; a new economy; 
new political conflicts; and beyond all this an altered consciousness as 
well. Pieces of this new civilization exist today. Millions are already 
attuning their lives to the rhythms of tomorrow. Others, terrified of the 
future, are engaged in a desperate, futile flight into the past and are 
trying to restore the dying world that gave them birth. 

The dawn of this new civilization is the single most explosive fact of our 

It is the central event — the key to understanding the years immediately 
ahead. It is an event as profound as that First Wave of change 
unleashed ten thousand years ago by the invention of agriculture, or 
the earthshaking Second Wave of change touched off by the industrial 
revolution. We are the children of the next transformation, the Third 

We grope for words to describe the full power and reach of this 
extraordinary change. Some speak of a looming Space Age, 

Information Age, Electronic Era, or Global Village. Zbigniew Brzezinski 
has told us we face a "technetronic age." Sociologist Daniel Bell 
describes the coming of a "post-industrial society." Soviet futurists 
speak of the S.T.R. — the "scientific-technological revolution." I myself 
have written extensively about the arrival of a "super-industrial 
society." Yet none of these terms, including my own, is adequate. 

Some of these phrases, by focusing on a single factor, nar- 



row rather than expand our understanding. Others are static, implying 
that a new society can come into our lives smoothly, without conflict or 
stress. None of these terms even begins to convey the full force, 
scope, and dynamism of the changes rushing toward us or of the 
pressures and conflicts they trigger. 

Humanity faces a quantum leap forward. It faces the deepest social 
upheaval and creative restructuring of all time. Without clearly 
recognizing it, we are engaged in building a remarkable new civilization 
from the ground up. This is the meaning of the Third Wave. 

Until now the human race has undergone two great waves of change, 
each one largely obliterating earlier cultures or civilizations and 
replacing them with ways of life inconceivable to those who came 
before. The First Wave of change — the agricultural revolution — took 
thousands of years to play itself out. The Second Wave — the rise of 
industrial civilization — took a mere three hundred years. Today history 
is even more accelerative, and it is likely that the Third Wave will 
sweep across history and complete itself in a few decades. We, who 
happen to share the planet at this explosive moment, will therefore feel 
the full impact of the Third Wave in our own lifetimes. 

Tearing our families apart, rocking our economy, paralyzing our 
political systems, shattering our values, the Third Wave affects 
everyone. It challenges all the old power relationships, the privileges 
and prerogatives of the endangered elites of today, and provides the 
backdrop against, which the key power struggles of tomorrow will be 

Much in this emerging civilization contradicts the old traditional 
industrial civilization. It is, at one and the same time, highly 
technological and anti-industrial. 

The Third Wave brings with it a genuinely new way of life based on 
diversified, renewable energy sources; on methods of production that 
make most factory assembly lines obsolete; on new, non-nuclear 
families; on a novel institution that might be called the "electronic 
cottage"; and on radically changed schools and corporations of the 
future. The emergent civilization writes a new code of behavior for us 
and carries us beyond standardization, synchronization, and 
centralization, beyond the concentration of energy, money, and power. 

This new civilization, as it challenges the old, will topple bureaucracies, 
reduce the role of the nation-state, and give 


rise to semiautonomous economies in a postimperialist world, It 
requires governments that are simpler, more effective, yet more 
democratic than any we know today. It is a civilization with its own 
distinctive world outlook, its own ways of dealing with time, space, 
logic, and causality. 

Above all, as we shall see, Third Wave civilization begins to heal the 
historic breach between producer and consumer, giving rise to the 

"prosumer" economics of tomorrow. For ihis reason, among many, it 
could — with some intelligent help 11 tun us — turn out to be the first 
truly humane civilization in It corded history. 


Two apparently contrasting images of the future grip the popular 
imagination today. Most people — to the extent that they bother to think 
about the future at all — assume the world they know will last 
indefinitely. They find it difficult to Imngine a truly different way of life 
for themselves, let alone a totally new civilization. Of course they 
recognize that things arc changing. But they assume today's changes 
will somehow pass them by and that nothing will shake the familiar 
economic framework and political structure. They confidently expect 
the future to continue the present 

This straight-line thinking comes in various packages. At one level it 
appears as an unexamined assumption lying be-hind the decisions of 
businessmen, teachers, parents, and politicians. At a more 
sophisticated level it comes dressed up hi statistics, computerized 
data, and forecasters* jargon. Either way it adds up to a vision of a 
future world that is essentially "more of the same" — Second Wave 
industrialism writ even larger and spread over more of this planet 

Recent events have severely shaken this confident image of the future. 
As crisis after crisis has crackled across the headlines, as Iran erupted, 
as Mao was de-deified, as oil prices skyrocketed and inflation ran wild, 
as terrorism spread and governments seemed helpless to stop it, a 
bleaker vision has become increasingly popular. Thus, large numbers 
of people — fed on a steady diet of bad news, disaster movies, 
apocalyptic Bible stories, and nightmare scenarios issued by 
prestigious think tanks — have apparently concluded that today's 
society cannot be projected into the future because there is no future. 

For them, Armageddon is only minutes away. The earth is racing 
toward its final cataclysmic shudder. 

On the surface these two visions of the future seem very different. Yet 
both produce similar psychological and political effects. For both lead 
to the paralysis of imagination and will. 

If tomorrow's society is simply an enlarged, Cinerama version of the 
present, there is little we need do to prepare for it. If, on the other 
hand, society is inevitably destined to self-destruct within our lifetime, 
there is nothing we caw do about it. In short, both these ways of 
looking at the future generate privatism and passivity. Both freeze us 
into inaction. 

Yet, in trying to understand what is happening to us, we are not limited 
to this simpleminded choice between Armageddon and More-of-the- 
Same. There are many more clarifying and constructive ways to think 
about tomorrow — ways that prepare us for the future and, more 
important, help us to change the present. 

This book is based on what I call the "revolutionary premise." It 
assumes that, even though the decades immediately ahead are likely 

to be filled with upheavals, turbulence, perhaps even widespread 
violence, we will not totally destroy ourselves. It assumes that the 
jolting changes we are now experiencing are not chaotic or random but 
that, in fact, they form a sharp, clearly discernible pattern. It assumes, 
moreover, that these changes are cumulative — that they add up to a 
giant transformation in the way we live, work, play, and think, and that 
a sane and desirable future is possible. In short, what follows begins 
with the premise that what is happening now is nothing less than a 
global revolution, a quantum jump in history. 

Put differently, this book flows from the assumption that we are the 
final generation of an old civilization and ,the first generation of a new 
one, and that much of our personal confusion, anguish, and 
disorientation can be traced directly to the conflict within us, and within 
our political institutions, between the dying Second Wave civilization 
and the emergent Third Wave civilization that is thundering in to take 
its place. 

When we finally understand this, many seemingly senselesi events 
become suddenly comprehensible. The broad patterns of change 
begin to emerge clearly. Action for survival be-1 comes possible and 
plausible again. In short, the revolutionary premise liberates our 
intellect and our will. 



To say the changes we face will be revolutionary, however, is not 
enough. Before we can control or channel them wo need a fresh way 
to identify and analyze them. Without this we are hopelessly lost. 

One powerful new approach might be called social "wave-front" 
analysis. It looks at history as a succession of rolling waves of change 
and asks where the leading edge of each wave is carrying us. It 
focuses our attention not so much on the continuities of history 
(important as they are) as on the discontinuities — the innovations and 
breakpoints. It identifies key change patterns as they emerge, so that 
we can influence them. 

Beginning with the very simple idea that the rise of agriculture was the 
first turning point hi human social development, and that the industrial 
revolution was the second great breakthrough, it views each of these 
not as a discrete, one-time event but as a wave of change moving at a 
certain velocity. 

Before the First Wave of change, most humans lived in small, often 
migratory groups and fed themselves by foraging, fishing, hunting, or 
herding. At some point, roughly ten millennia ago, the agricultural 
revolution began, and it crept slowly across the planet spreading 
villages, settlements, cultivated land, and a new way of life. 

This First Wave of change had not yet exhausted itself by the end of 
the seventeenth century, when the industrial revolution broke over 
Europe and unleashed the second great wave of planetary change. 

This new process — industrialization — began moving much more rapidly 

across nations and continents. Thus two separate and distinct change 
processes were rolling across the earth simultaneously, at different 

Today the First Wave has virtually subsided. Only a few tiny tribal 
populations, in South America or Papua Now Guinea, for example, 
remain to be reached by agriculture. But the force of this great First 
Wave has basically been spent. 

Meanwhile, the Second Wave, having revolutionized life in Europe, 
North America, and some other parts of the globe in a few short 
centuries, continues to spread, as many countries, until now basically 
agricultural, scramble to build steel mills, auto plants, textile factories, 
railroads, and food processing 



plants. The momentum of industrialization is still felt. The Second 
Wave has not entirely spent in force. 

But even as this process continues, another, even more important, has 
begun. For as the tide of industrialism peaked in the decades after 
World War II, a little-understood Third Wave began to surge across the 
earth, transforming everything it touched. 

Many countries, therefore, are feeling the simultaneous impact of two, 
even three, quite different waves of change, all moving at different 
rates of speed and with different degrees of force behind them. 

For the purposes of this book we shall consider the First Wave era to 
have begun sometime around 8000 B.C. and to have dominated the 
earth unchallenged until sometime around A.D. 1650-1750. From this 
moment on, the First Wave lost momentum as the Second Wave 
picked up steam. Industrial civilization, the product of this Second 
Wave, then dominated the planet in its turn until it, too, crested. This 
latest historical turning point arrived in the United States during the 
decade beginning about 1955 — the decade that saw white-collar and 
service workers outnumber blue-collar workers for the first time. This 
was the same decade that saw the widespread introduction of the 
computer, commercial jet travel, the birth control pill, and many other 
high-impact innovations. It was precisely during this decade that the 
Third Wave began to gather its force in the United States. Since then it 
has arrived — at slightly different dates — in most of the other industrial 
nations, including Britain, France, Sweden, Germany, the Soviet 
Union, and Japan. Today all the high-technology nations are reeling 
from the collision between the Third Wave and the obsolete, encrusted 
economies and institutions of the Second. 

Understanding this is the secret to making sense of much of the 
political and social conflict we see around us. 


Whenever a single wave of change predominates in any given society, 
the pattern of future development is relatively easy to discern. Writers, 
artists, journalists, and others discover the "wave of the future." Thus in 
nineteenth-century Europe many thinkers, business leaders, 
politicians, and ordinary people held a clear, basically correct image of 
the fu- 


ture. They sensed that history was moving toward the ultimate triumph 
of industrialism over premechanized agriculture, and they foresaw with 
considerable accuracy many of the changes that the Second Wave 
would bring with it: more powerful technologies, bigger cities, faster 
transport, mass education, and the like. 

This clarity of vision had direct political effects. Parties and political 
movements were able to triangulate with respect to the future. 
Preindustrial agricultural interests organized a rearguard action against 
encroaching industrialism, against "big business," against "union 
bosses," against "sinful cities." Labor and management grappled for 
control of the main levers of the emergent industrial society. Ethnic and 
racial minorities defining their rights in terms of an improved role in the 
industrial world, demanded access to jobs, corporate positions, urban 
housing, better wages, mass public education, and so forth. 

This industrial vision of the future had important psychological effects 
as well. People might disagree; they might engage in sharp, 
occasionally even bloody, conflict. Depressions and boom times might 
disrupt their lives. Nevertheless, in general, (he shared image of an 
industrial future tended to define options, to give individuals a sense 
not merely of who or what they were, but of what they were likely to 
become. It provided a degree of stability and a sense of self, even in 
the midst of extreme social change. 

In contrast, when a society is struck by two or more giant\ waves of 
change, and none is yet clearly dominant, the image V of the future is 
fractured. It becomes extremely difficult to \ sort out the meaning of the 
changes and conflicts that arise A JL The collision of wave fronts creates 
a raging ocean, full or clashing currents, eddies, and maelstroms which 
conceal the deeper, more important historic tides. 

In the United States today — as in many other countries — the"| collision 
of Second and Third Waves creates social tensions, I dangerous 
conflicts, and strange new political wave fronts that I cut across the 
usual divisions of class, race, sex, or party. This \ collision makes a 
shambles of traditional political vocabularies I and makes it very 
difficult to separate the progressives from the \ reactionaries, friends 
from enemies. All the old polarizations and coalitions break up. 
Unions and employers, despite their differences, join to fight 
environmentalists. Blacks and Jews, once united in the battle against 
discrimination, become adversaries. 



In many nations, labor, which has traditionally favored "progressive" 
policies such as income redistribution, now often holds "reactionary" 
positions with respect to women's rights, family codes, immigration, 
tariffs, or regionalism. The traditional "left" is often pro-centalization, 
highly nationalistic, and antienvironmentalist. 

At the same time we see politicians, from Valery Giscard d'Estaing to 
Jimmy Carter or Jerry Brown, espousing "conservative" attitudes 
toward economics and "liberal" attitudes toward art, sexual morality, 
women's rights, or ecological controls. No wonder people are confused 
and give up trying to make sense of their world. 

The media, meanwhile, report a seemingly endless succession of 
innovations, reversals, bizarre events, assassinations, kidnappings, 
space shots, governmental breakdown, commando raids, and 
scandals, all seemingly unrelated. 

The apparent incoherence of political life is mirrored in personality 
disintegration. Psychotherapists and gurus do a land-office business; 
people wander aimlessly amid competing therapies, from primal 
scream to est. They slip into cults and covens or, alternatively, into a 
pathological privatism, convinced that reality is absurd, insane, or 
meaningless. Life may indeed be absurd in some large, cosmic sense. 
But this hardly proves that there is no pattern in today's events. In fact, 
there is a distinct, hidden order that becomes detectable as soon as 
we learn to distinguish Third Wave changes from those associated with 
the diminishing Second Wave. 

An understanding of the conflicts produced by these colliding wave 
fronts gives us not only a clearer image of alternative futures but an X 
ray of the political and social forces acting on us. It also offers insight 
into our own private roles in history. For each of us, no matter how 
seemingly unimportant, is a living piece of history. 

The crosscurrents created by these waves of change are reflected in 
our work, our family life, our sexual attitudes and personal morality. 
They show up in our life-styles and voting behavior. For in our personal 
lives and in our political acts, whether we know it or not, most of us in 
the rich countries are essentially either Second Wave people 
committed to maintaining the dying order, Third Wave people 
constructing a radically different tomorrow, or a confused, self- 
canceling mixture of the two. 



The conflict between Second and Third Wave groupings In, in fact, the 
central political tension cutting through our society today. Despite what 
today's parties and candidates may preach, the infighting among them 
amounts to little more than a dispute over who will squeeze the most 
advantage from what remains of the declining industrial system. Put 
differently, they are engaged in a squabble for the proverbial deck 
chairs on a sulking Titanic. 

The more basic political question, as we shall see, is not who controls 
the last days of industrial society but who shapes the new civilization 
rapidly rising to replace it. While short-range political skirmishes 
exhaust our energy and attention, a far more profound battle is already 
taking place beneath the surface. On one side are the partisans of the 
industrial past; on the other, growing millions who recognize that the 
most urgent problems of the world — food, energy, arms control, 
population, poverty, resources, ecology, climate, the problems of the 
aged, the breakdown of urban community, the need for productive, 
rewarding work — can no longer be resolved within the framework of 
the industrial order. 

This conflict is the "super-struggle" for tomorrow. 

This confrontation between the vested interests of the Second Wave 
and the people of the Third Wave already runs like an electric current 
through the political life of every nation. Even in the non-industrial 
countries of the world, all the old battle lines have been forcibly 
redrawn by the arrival of the Third Wave. The old war of agricultural, 
often feudal, interests against industrializing elites, either capitalist or 
socialist, takes on a new dimension hi light of the coming 
obsolescence of industrialism. Now that Third Wave civilization is 
making its appearance, does rapid industrialization imply liberation 
from neocolonialism and poverty — or does it, in fact, guarantee 
permanent dependency? 

It is only against this wide-screen background that we can begin to 
make sense of the headlines, to sort out our priorities, to frame 
sensible strategies for the control of change in our lives. 

As I write this, the front pages report hysteria and hostages in Iran, 
assassinations hi South Korea, runaway speculation in gold, friction 
between Blacks and Jews in the U.S., big increases in West German 
military spending, cross burnings on Long Island, a giant oil spill hi the 
Gulf of Mexico, the big- 



gest antinuclear rally in history, and a battle between the rich nations 
and the poor over the control of radio frequencies. Waves of religious 
revivalism crash through Libya, Syria, and the U.S.; neofascist fanatics 
claim "credit" for a political assassination in Paris. And General Motors 
reports a breakthrough into technology needed for electric 
automobiles. Such disconnected news -clips cry out for integration or 

Once we realize that a bitter struggle is now raging between those who 
seek to preserve industrialism and those who seek to supplant it, we 
have a powerful new key to understanding the world. More important — 
whether we are setting policies for a nation, strategies for a 
corporation, or goals for one's own personal life — we have a new tool 
for changing that world. 

To use this tool, however, we must be able to distinguish clearly those 
changes that extend the old industrial civilization from those which 
facilitate the arrival of the new. We must, in short, understand both the 
old and the new, the Second Wave industrial system into which so 
many of us were born and the Third Wave civilization that we and our 
children will inhabit. 

In the chapters that follow, we return for a closer look at the first two 
waves of change as a preparation for our exploration of the third. We 
shall see that Second Wave civilization was not an accidental jumble of 
components, but a system with parts that interacted with each other in 
more or less predictable ways — and that the fundamental patterns of 
industrial life were the same hi country after country, regardless of 
cultural heritage or political difference. This is the civilization that 
today's "reactionaries" — both "left-" and "right-wing" — are fighting to 
preserve. It is this world that is threatened by history's Third Wave of 
civilizational change. 


Three hundred years ago, give or take a half-century, an explosion 
was heard that sent concussive shock waves racing across the earth, 
demolishing ancient societies and creating a wholly new civilization. 
This explosion was, of course, the industrial revolution. And the giant 
tidal force is set loose on the world — the Second Wave — collided with 
all the institutions of the past and changed the way of life of millions. 

During the long millennia when First Wave civilization reigned 
supreme, the planet's population could have been divided into two 
categories — the "primitive" and the "civilized." The so-called primitive 
peoples, living in small bands and tribes and subsisting by gathering, 
hunting, or fishing, were those who had been passed over by the 
agricultural revolution. 

The "civilized" world, by contrast, was precisely that part of the planet 
on which most people worked the soil. For wherever agriculture arose, 
civilization took root. A From China and India to Benin and Mexico, in 
Greece and Rome, civilizations rose and fell, fought and fused in 
endless, colorful admixture. 

However, beneath their differences lay fundamental similarities. In all 
of them, land was the basis of economy, life, culture, family structure, 
and politics. In all of them, life was organized around the village. In all 
of them, a simple division of labor prevailed and a few clearly defined 
castes and classes arose: a nobility, a priesthood, warriors, helots, 
slaves or serfs. In all of them, power was rigidly authoritarian. In all of 
them, birth determined one's position in life. And hi all of 



them, the economy was decentralized, so that each community 
produced most of its own necessities. 

There were exceptions — nothing is simple in history. There were 
commercial cultures whose sailors crossed the seas, and highly 
centralized kingdoms organized around giant irrigation systems. But 
despite such differences, we are justified in seeing all these seemingly 
distinctive civilizations as special cases of a single phenomenon: 
agricultural civilization — the civilization spread by the First Wave. 

During its dominance there were occasional hints of things to come. 
There were embryonic mass-production factories in ancient Greece 
and Rome. Oil was drilled on one of the Greek islands in 400 B.C. and 
in Burma in A.D. 100. Vast bureaucracies flourished in Babylonia and 
Egypt. Great urban metropolises grew up in Asia and South America. 
There was money and exchange. Trade routes crisscrossed the 
deserts, oceans, and mountains from Cathay to Calais. Corporations 
and incipient nations existed. There was even, in ancient Alexandria, a 
startling forerunner of the steam engine. 

Yet nowhere was there anything that might remotely have been termed 
an industrial civilization. These glimpses of the future, so to speak, 
were mere oddities in history, scattered through different places and 
periods. They never were brought together into a coherent system, nor 
could they have been. Until 1650-1750, therefore, we can speak of a 
First Wave world. Despite patches of primitivism and hints of the 
industrial future, agricultural civilization dominated the planet and 
seemed destined to do so forever. 

This was the world in which the industrial revolution erupted, launching 
the Second Wave and creating a strange, powerful, feverishly 
energetic countercivilization. Industrialism was more than smokestacks 
and assembly lines. It was a rich, many-sided social system that 
touched every aspect of human life and attacked every feature of the 
First Wave past. It produced the great Willow Run factory outside 
Detroit, but it also put the tractor on the farm, the typewriter in the 
office, the refrigerator in the kitchen. It produced the daily newspaper 
and the cinema, the subway and the DC-3. It gave us cubism and 
twelve-tone music. It gave us Bauhaus buildings and Barcelona chairs, 
sit-down strikes, vitamin pills, and lengthened life spans. It 
universalized the wristwatch and the ballot box. More important, it 
linked all these things together — assembled them, like a machine — to 
form the most 


powerful, cohesive and expansive social system the world had ever 
know: Second Wave civilization. 


As the Second Wave moved across various societies it touched off a 
bloody, protracted war between the defenders of the agricultural past 
and the partisans of the industrial future. The forces of First and 

Second Wave collided head-on, brushing aside, often decimating, the 
"primitive" peoples encountered along the way. 

In the United States, this collision began with the arrival of the 
Europeans bent on establishing an agricultural, First Wave civilization. 
A white agricultural tide pushed relentlessly westward, dispossessing 
the Indian, depositing farms and agricultural villages farther and farther 
toward the Pacific. 

But hard on the heels of the farmers came the earliest in-dustrializers 
as well, agents of the Second Wave future. Factories and cities began 
to spring up in New England and the mid-Atlantic states. By the middle 
of the nineteenth century, the Northeast had a rapidly growing 
industrial sector producing firearms, watches, farm implements, 
textiles, sewing machines, and other goods, while the rest of the 
continent was still ruled by agricultural interests. Economic and social 
tensions between First Wave and Second Wave forces grew in 
intensity until 1861, when they broke into armed violence. 

The Civil War was not fought exclusively, as it seemed to many, over 
the moral issue of slavery or such narrow economic issues as tariffs. It 
was fought over a much larger question: would the rich new continent 
be ruled by farmers or industrializers, by the forces of the First Wave or 
the Second? Would the future American society be basically 
agricultural or industrial? When the Northern armies won, the die was 
cast. The industrialization of the United States was assured. From that 
time on, in economics, in politics, in social and cultural life, agriculture 
was in retreat, industry ascendant. The First Wave ebbed as the 
Second came thundering in. 

The same collision of civilizations erupted elsewhere as well. In Japan 
the Meiji Restoration, beginning in 1868, re-played in. unmistakably 
Japanese terms the same struggle be-tween agricultural past and 
industrial future. The abolition of feudalism by 1876, the rebellion of the 
Satsuma clan in 1877, 



the adoption of a Western-style constitution in 1889, were all 
reflections of the collision of the First and Second Waves in Japan — 
steps on the road to Japan's emergence as a premier industrial power. 

In Russia, too, the same collision between First and Second Wave 
forces erupted. The 1917 revolution was Russia's version of the 
American Civil War. It was fought not primarily, as it seemed, over 
communism but once again over the issue of industrialization. When 
the Bolsheviks wiped out the last lingering vestiges of serfdom and 
feudal monarchy, they pushed agriculture into the background and 
consciously accelerated industrialism. They became the party of the 
Second Wave. 

In country after country, the same clash between First Wave and 
Second Wave interests broke out, leading to political crisis and 
upheavals, to strikes, uprisings, coups d'etat, and wars. By the mid- 

twentieth century, however, the forces of the First Wave were broken 
and the Second Wave civilization reigned over the earth. 

Today an industrial belt girdles the globe between the twenty-fifth and 
sixty-fifth parallels in the Northern Hemisphere. In North America, 
some 250 million people live an industrial way of life. In Western 
Europe, from Scandinavia south to Italy, another quarter of a billion 
humans live under industrialism. Eastward lies the "Eurassian" 
industrial region — Eastern Europe and the western part of the Soviet 
Union — and there we find still another quarter of a billion people living 
out their lives in industrial societies. Finally, we come to the Asian 
industrial region, comprising Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, 
Australia, New Zealand, and parts of South Korea and the Chinese 
mainland, and yet another quarter billion industrial people. In all, 
industrial civilization embraces roughly one billion human beings — one 
fourth the population of the globe.* 

Despite dizzying differences of language, culture, history, and 
politics — differences so deep that wars are fought over them — all these 
Second Wave societies share common fea- 

*For the purposes of this book, I shall define the world industrial 
system, circa 1979, as comprising North America; Scandinavia; Britain 
and Ireland; Europe, both East and West (except for Portugal, Spain, 
Albania, Greece, and Bulgaria); the U.S.S.R.; Japan, Taiwan, Hong 
Kong, Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand. Of course, there are 
other nations that might arguably be included — as well as industrial 
nodes in essentially non-industrial nations: Monterrey and Mexico City 
in Mexico, Bombay in India, and many others. 


lures. Indeed, beneath the well-known differences lies a hidden 
bedrock of similarity. 

And to understand today's colliding waves of change wo must be able 
to identify clearly the parallel structures of all industrial nations — the 
hidden framework of Second Wave civilization. For it is this industrial 
framework itself that is now being shattered. 


The precondition of any civilization, old or new, is energy. First Wave 
societies drew their energy from "living batteries" — human and animal 
muscle-power — or from sun, wind, and water. Forests were cut for 
cooking and heating. Waterwheels, some of them using tidal power, 
turned millstones. Windmills creaked in the fields. Animals pulled the 
plow. As late as the French Revolution, it has been estimated, Europe 
drew energy from an estimated 14 million horses and 24 million oxen. 
All First Wave societies thus exploited energy sources that were 
renewable. Nature could eventually replenish the forests they cut, the 
wind that filled their sails, the rivers that turned then* paddle wheels. 
Even animals and people were replaceable "energy slaves.*' 

All Second Wave societies, by contrast, began to draw their energy 
from coal, gas, and oil — from irreplaceable fossil fuels. This 

revolutionary shift, coming after Newcomen invented a workable steam 
engine in 1712, meant that for the first time a civilization was eating 
into nature's capital rather than merely living off the interest it provided. 

This dipping into the earth's energy reserves provided a hidden 
subsidy for industrial civilization, vastly accelerating its economic 
growth. And from that day to this, wherever the Second Wave passed, 
nations built towering technological and economic structures on the 
assumption that cheap fossil fuels would be endlessly available. In 
capitalist and communist industrial societies alike, in East and West, 
this same shift has been apparent — from dispersed to concentrated 
energy, from renewable to non-renewable, from many different sources 
and fuels to a few. Fossil fuels formed the energy base of all Second 
Wave societies. 



The leap to a new energy system was paralleled by a gigantic advance 
in technology. First Wave societies had relied on what Vitruvius, two 
thousand years ago, called "necessary inventions." But these early 
winches and wedges, catapults, winepresses, levers, and hoists were 
chiefly used to amplify human or animal muscles. 

The Second Wave pushed technology to a totally new level. It 
spawned gigantic electromechanical machines, moving parts, belts, 
hoses, bearings, and bolts — all clattering and ratcheting along. And 
these new machines did more than augment raw muscle. Industrial 
civilization gave technology sensory organs, creating machines that 
could hear, see, and touch with greater accuracy and precision than 
human beings. It gave technology a womb, by inventing machines 
designed to give birth to new machines in infinite progression — i.e., 
machine tools. More important, it brought machines together in 
interconnected systems under a single roof, to create the factory and 
ultimately the assembly line within the factory. 

On this technological base a host of industries sprang up to give 
Second Wave civilization its defining stamp. At first there were coal, 
textiles, and railroads, then steel, auto manufacture, aluminum, 
chemicals, and appliances. Huge factory cities leaped into existence: 
Lille and Manchester for textiles, Detroit for automobiles, Essen and — 
later — Magnitogorsk for steel, and a hundred others as well. 

From these industrial centers poured millions upon endless millions of 
identical products — shirts, shoes, automobiles, watches, toys, soap, 
shampoo, cameras, machine guns, and electric motors. The new 
technology powered by the new energy system opened the door to 
mass production. 


Mass production, however, was meaningless, without parallel changes 
in the distribution system. In First Wave societies, goods were normally 
made by handcraft methods. Products were created one at a time on a 
custom basis. The same was largely true of distribution. 

It is true that large, sophisticated trading companies had been built up 
by merchants in the widening cracks of the old 


feudal order in the West. These companies opened trade routes 
around the world, organized convoys of ships and camel caravans. 
They sold glass, paper, silk, nutmeg, tea, wine and wool, indigo and 

Most of these products, however, reached consumers through tiny 
stores or on the backs and wagons of peddlers who fanned out into the 
countryside. Wretched communications and primitive transport 
drastically circumscribed the market. These small-scale shopkeepers 
and itinerant vendors could offer only the slenderest of inventories, and 
often they were out of this or that item for months, even years, at a 

The Second Wave wrought changes in this creaking, overburdened 
distribution system that were as radical, in their ways, as the more 
publicized advances made in production. Railroads, highways, and 
canals opened up the hinterlands, and with industrialism came 
"palaces of trade** — the first department stores. Complex networks of 
jobbers, wholesalers, commission agents, and manufacturers* 
representatives sprang up, and in 1871 George Huntington Hartford, 
whose first store hi New York was painted vermilion and had a 
cashier's cage shaped like a Chinese pagoda, did for distribution what 
Henry Ford later did for the factory. He advanced it to an entirely new 
stage by creating the world's first mammoth chain-store system — The 
Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company. 

Custom distribution gave way to the mass distribution and mass 
merchandising that became as familiar and central a component of all 
industrial societies as the machine itself. 

What we see, therefore, if we take these changes together, is a 
transformation of what might be called the "techno-sphere." All 
societies — primitive, agricultural, or industrial — use energy; they make 
things; they distribute things. In all societies the energy system, the 
production system, and the distribution system are interrelated parts of 
something larger. This larger system is the techno-sphere, and it has a 
characteristic form at each stage of social development 

As the Second Wave swept across the planet, the agricultural techno- 
sphere was replaced by an industrial techno-sphere: non-renewable 
energies were directly plugged into a mass production system which, 
in turn, spewed goods into a highly developed mass distribution 



This Second Wave techno-sphere, however, needed an equally 
revolutionary "socio-sphere" to accommodate it. It needed radically 
new forms of social organization. 

Before the industrial revolution, for example, family forms varied from 
place to place. But wherever agriculture held sway, people tended to 
live in large, multigenerational households, with uncles, aunts, in-laws, 
grandparents, or cousins all living under the same roof, all working 
together as an economic production unit — from the "joint family" in 
India to the "zadruga" in the Balkans and the "extended family" in 
Western Europe. And the family was immobile — rooted to the soil. 

As the Second Wave began to move across First Wave societies, 
families felt the stress of change. Within each household the collision 
of wave fronts took the form of conflict, attacks on patriarchal authority, 
altered relationships between children and parents, new notions of 
propriety. As economic production shifted from the field to the factory, 
the family no longer worked together as a unit. To free workers for 
factory labor, key functions of the family were parceled out to new, 
specialized institutions. Education of the child was turned over to 
schools. Care of the aged was turned over to poor-houses or old-age 
homes or nursing homes. Above all, the new society required mobility. 

It needed workers who would follow jobs from place to place. 

Burdened with elderly relatives, the sick, the handicapped, and a large 
brood of children, the extended family was anything but mobile. 
Gradually and painfully, therefore, family structure began to change. 
Tom apart by the migration to the cities, battered by economic storms, 
families stripped themselves of unwanted relatives, grew smaller, more 
mobile, and more suited to the needs of the new techno-sphere. 

The so-called nuclear family — father, mother, and a few children, with 
no encumbering relatives — became the standard, socially approved, 
"modern" model in all industrial societies, whether capitalist or socialist. 
Even in Japan, where ancestor worship gave the elderly an 
exceptionally important role, the large, close-knit, multigenerational 
household began to break down as the Second Wave advanced. More 
and more nuclear units appeared. In short, the nuclear family became 
an identifiable feature of all Second Wave societies, 


marking them off from First Wave societies just as surely as fossil 
fuels, steel mills, or chain stores. 


As work shifted out of the fields and the home, moreover, children had 
to be prepared for factory life. The early mine, mill, and factory owners 
of industrializing England discovered, as Andrew Ure wrote in 1835, 
that it was "nearly impossible to convert persons past the age of 
puberty, whether drawn from rural or from handicraft occupations, into 
useful factory hands." If young people could be prefitted to the 
industrial system, it would vastly ease the problems of industrial 
discipline later on. The result was another central structure of all 
Second Wave societies: mass education. 

Built on the factory model, mass education taught basic reading, 
writing, and arithmetic, a bit of history and other subjects. This was the 
"overt curriculum.' 1 But beneath it lay an invisible or "covert curriculum" 
that was far more basic. It consisted — and still does in most industrial 
nations — of three courses: one in punctuality, one in obedience, and 
one in rote, repetitive work. Factory labor demanded workers who 
showed up on time, especially assembly-line hands. It demanded 
workers who would take orders from a management hierarchy without 
questioning. And it demanded men and women prepared to slave 
away at machines or in offices, performing brutally repetitious 

Thus from the mid-nineteenth century on, as the Second Wave cut 
across country after country, one found a relentless educational 
progression: children started school at a younger and younger age, the 
school year became longer and longer (in the United States it climbed 
35 percent between 1878 and 1956), and the number of years of 
compulsory schooling irresistibly increased. 

Mass public education was clearly a humanizing step for-ward. As a 
group of mechanics and workingmen in New York City declared in 
1829, "Next to life and liberty, we consider education the greatest 
blessing bestowed upon mankind." Nevertheless, Second Wave 
schools machined generation after generation of young people into a 
pliable, regimented work force of the type required by 
electromechanical technology and the assembly line. 

Taken together, the nuclear family and the factory -si 


school formed part of a single integrated system for the preparation of 
young people for roles in industrial society. In this respect, too, Second 
Wave societies, capitalist or communist, North or South, were all alike. 


In all Second Wave societies a third institution arose that extended the 
social control of the first two. This was the invention known as the 
corporation. Until then, the typical business enterprise had been owned 
by an individual, a family, or a partnership. Corporations existed, but 
were extremely rare. 

Even as late as the American Revolution, according to business 
historian Arthur Dewing, "no one could have concluded" that the 
corporation — rather 4han the partnership or individual proprietorship — 
would become the main organizational form. As recently as 1800 there 
were only 335 corporations in the United States, most of them devoted 
to such quasi-public activities as building canals or running turnpikes. 

The rise of mass production changed all this. Second Wave 
technologies required giant pools of capital — more than a single 
individual or even a small group could provide. So long as proprietors 
or partners risked their entire personal fortunes with every investment, 
they were reluctant to sink their money in vast or risky ventures. To 

encourage them, the concept of limited liability was introduced. If a 
corporation collapsed, the investor stood to lose only the sum invested 
and no more. This innovation opened the investment floodgates. 

Moreover, the corporation was treated by the courts as an "immortal 
being" — meaning it could outlive its original investors. This meant, in 
turn, that it could make very long-range plans and undertake far bigger 
projects than ever before. 

By 1901 the world's first billion-dollar corporation — United States 
Steel — appeared on the scene, a concentration of assets unimaginable 
in any earlier period. By 1919 there were half a dozen such 
behemoths. Indeed, large corporations became an in-built feature of 
economic life in all the industrial nations, including socialist and 
communist societies, where the form varied but the substance (in 
terms of organization) remained very much the same. Together these 
three — the nuclear family, the factory -style school, and the giant 
corporation — 


became the defining social institutions of all Second Wave societies. 

And, throughout the Second Wave world — in Japan as well as in 
Switzerland, Britain, Poland, the U.S., and the U.S.S.R. — most people 
followed a standard life trajectory: reared in a nuclear family, they 
moved en masse through fac torylike schools, then entered the service 
of a large corporation, private or public. A key Second Wave institution 
dominated each phase of the life-style. 


Around these three core institutions a host of other organizations 
sprang up. Government ministries, sports clubs, churches, chambers 
of commerce, trade unions, professional organizations, political parties, 
libraries, ethnic associations, recreational groups, and thousands of 
others bobbed up in the wake of the Second Wave, creating a 
complicated organizational ecology with each group servicing, 
coordinating, or counterbalancing another. 

At first glance, the variety of these groups suggests randomness or 
chaos. But a closer look reveals a hidden pattern. In one Second Wave 
country after another, social inventors, believing the factory to be the 
most advanced and efficient agency for production, tried to embody its 
principles in other organizations as well. Schools, hospitals, prisons, 
government bureaucracies, and other organizations thus took on many 
of the characteristics of the factory — its division of labor, its hierarchical 
structure and its metallic impersonality. 

Even in the arts we find some of the principles of the factory. Instead of 
working for a patron, as was customary during the long reign of 
agricultural civilization, musicians, artists, composers, and writers were 
increasingly thrown on the mercies of the marketplace. More and more 
they turned out "products" for anonymous consumers. And as this shift 
occurred in every Second Wave country, the very structure of artistic 
production changed. 

Music provides a striking example. As the Second Wave arrived, 
concert halls began to crop up in London, Vienna, Paris, and 
elsewhere. With them came the box office and the impresario — the 
businessman who financed the production and then sold tickets to 
culture consumers. 

The more tickets he could sell, naturally, the more money 


he could make. Hence more and more seats were added. In turn, 
however, larger concert halls required louder sounds — music that 
could be clearly heard in the very last tier. The result was a shift from 
chamber music to symphonic forms. 

Says Curt Sachs in his authoritative History of Musical Instruments, 
"The passage from an aristocratic to a democratic culture, in the 
eighteenth century, replaced the small salons by the more and more 
gigantic concert halls, which demanded greater volume." Since no 
technology existed yet to make this possible, more and more 
instruments and players were added to produce the necessary volume. 
The result was the modern symphony orchestra, and it was for this 
industrial institution that Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Schubert, and 
Brahms wrote their magnificent symphonies. 

The orchestra even mirrored certain features of the factory in its 
internal structure. At first the symphony orchestra was leaderless, or 
the leadership was casually passed around among the players. Later 
the players, exactly like workers in a factory or bureaucratic office, 
were divided into departments (instramental sections), each 
contributing to the overall output (the music), each coordinated from 
above by a manager (the conductor) or even, eventually, a straw boss 
farther down the management hierarchy (the first violinist or the section 
head). The institution sold its product to a mass market — eventually 
adding phonograph records to its output. The music factory had been 

The history of the orchestra offers only one illustration of the way the 
Second Wave socio-sphere arose, with its three core institutions and 
thousands of varied organizations, all adapted to the needs and style 
of the industrial techno-sphere. But a civilization is more than simply a 
techno-sphere and a matching socio-sphere. All civilizations also 
require an "info-sphere" for producing and distributing information, and 
here, too, the changes brought by the Second Wave were remarkable. 


All human groups, from primitive times to today, depend on face-to- 
face, person-to-person communication. But systems were needed for 
sending messages across time and space as well. The ancient 
Persians are said to have set up towers or "call-posts," placing men 
with shrill, loud voices atop them to 


relay messages by shouting from one tower to the next. The Romans 
operated an extensive messenger service called the cursus publicus. 
Between 1305 and the early 1800's, the House of Taxis ran a form of 
pony express service all over Europe. By 1628 it employed twenty 
thousand men. Its couriers, clad in blue and silver uniforms, 
crisscrossed the continent carrying messages between princes and 
generals, merchants and money lenders. 

During First Wave civilization all these channels were reserved for the 
rich and powerful only. Ordinary people had no access to them. As the 
historian Laurin Zilliacus states, even "attempts to send letters by other 
means were looked upon with suspicion or . . . forbidden" by the 
authorities. In short, while face-to-face information exchange was open 
to all, the newer systems used for carrying imformation beyond the 
confines of a family or a village were essentially closed and used for 
purposes of social or political control. They were, in effect, weapons of 
the elite. 

The Second Wave, as it moved across country after country, smashed 
this communications monopoly. This occurred not because the rich 
and powerful grew suddenly altruistic but because Second Wave 
technology and factory mass production required "mass-ive" 
movements of information that the old channels simply could no longer 

The information needed for economic production in primitive and First 
Wave societies is comparatively simple and usually available from 
someone near at hand. It is mostly oral or gestural hi form. Second 
Wave economies, by contrast, required the tight coordination of work 
done at many locations. Not only raw materials but great amounts of 
information had to be produced and carefully distributed. 

For this reason, as the Second Wave gained momentum every country 
raced to build a postal service. The post'office was an invention quite 
as imaginative and socially useful as the cotton gin or the spinning 
jenny and, to an extent forgotten today, it elicited rhapsodic 
enthusiasm. The American orator Edward Everett declared: "I am 
compelled to regard the Post-office, next to Christianity, as the right 
arm of our modern civilization." 

For the post office provided the first wide open channel for industrial- 
era communications. By 1837 the British Post Office was carrying not 
merely messages for an elite but some 88 million pieces of mail a 
year — an avalanche of commnm.., tions by the standards of the day. 

By 1960, at about Hu- 



the industrial era peaked and the Third Wave began its surge, that 
number had already climbed to 10 billion. That same year the U.S. 

Post Office was distributing 355 pieces of domestic mail for every man, 
woman, and child in the nation.* 

The surge in postal messages that accompanied the industrial 
revolution merely hints, however, at the real volume of information that 
began to flow in the wake of the Second Wave. An even greater 
number of messages poured through what might be called "micro- 
postal systems" within large organizations. Memos are letters that 
never reach the public communications channels. In 1955, as the 
Second Wave crested in the United States, the Hoover Commission 
peeked inside the files of three major corporations. It discovered, 
respectively, thirty-four thousand, fifty-six thousand, and sixty-four 
thousand documents and memos on file for each employee on the 

Nor could the mushrooming informational needs of industrial societies 
be met in writing alone. Thus the telephone and telegraph were 
invented hi the nineteenth century to carry then: share of the ever- 
swelling communications load. By 1960 Americans were placing some 
256 million phone calls per day — over 93 billion a year — and even the 
most advanced telephone systems and networks in the world were 
often overloaded. 

All these were essentially systems for delivering messages from one 
sender to one receiver at a time. But a society developing mass 
production and mass consumption needed ways to send mass 
messages, too — communications from one sender to many receivers 
simultaneously. Unlike the preindus-trial employer, who could 
personally visit each of his handful of employees in their own homes if 
need be, the industrial employer could not communicate with his 
thousands of workers on a one-by-one basis. Still less could the mass 
merchandiser or distributor communicate with his customers one by 
one. Second Wave society needed — and not surprisingly invented — 
powerful means for sending the same message to many people at 
once, cheaply, rapidly, and reliably. , 

Postal services could carry the same message to millions — but not 
quickly. Telephones could carry messages quickly — 

* The amount of mail provides a good, instant index to the level of 
traditional industrialization in any country. For Second Wave societies, 
the average hi 1960 was 141 pieces of mail per person. By contrast, in 
First Wave societies the level was barely a tenth of that — twelve per 
person per year in Malaysia or Ghana, four per year in Colombia. 



but not to millions of people simultaneously. This gap came to be filled 
by the mass media. 

Today, of course, the mass circulation newspaper and magazine are 
so standard a part of daily life in every one of the industrial nations that 
they are taken for granted. Yet the rise of these publications on a 
national level reflected the convergent development of many new 
industrial technologies and social forms. Thus, writes Jean-Louis 
Servan-Schreiber, they were made possible by the coming together of 

"trains to transport the publications throughout a [European-size] 
country in a single day; rotary presses capable of turning out dozens of 
millions of copies in several hours; a network of telegraph and 
telephones ... above all a public taught to read by compulsory 
education, and industries needing to mass distribute their products." , 

In the mass media, from newspapers and radio to movies and 
television, we find once again an embodiment of the basic principle of 
the factory. All of them stamp identical messages into millions of 
brains, just as the factory stamps out identical products for use in 
millions of homes. Standardized, mass-manufactured "facts," 
counterparts of standardized, mass-manufactured products, flow from 
a few concentrated image-factories out to millions of consumers. 
Without this vast, powerful system for channeling information, industrial 
civilization could not have taken form or functioned reliably. 

Thus there sprang up in all industrial societies, capitalist and socialist 
alike, an elaborate info-sphere — communication channels through 
which individual and mass messages could be distributed as efficiently 
as goods or raw materials. This info-sphere intertwined with and 
serviced the techno-sphere and the socio-sphere, helping to integrate 
economic production with private behavior. 

Each of these spheres performed a key function in the larger system, 
and could not have existed without the others. The techno-sphere 
produced and allocated wealth; the socio-sphere, with its thousands of 
interrelated organizations, allocated roles to individuals in the system. 
And the info-sphere , allocated the information necessary to make the 
entire system work. Together they formed the basic architecture of 

We see here in outline, therefore, the common structures of all Second 
Wave nations — regardless of their cultural or climatic differences, 
regardless of their ethnic and religious 



heritage, regardless of whether they call themselves capitalist or 

These parallel structures, as basic in the Soviet Union and Hungary as 
in West Germany, France, or Canada, set the limits within which 
political, social, and cultural differences were expressed. They 
emerged everywhere only after bitter political, cultural, and economic 
battles between those who attempted to preserve the older First Wave 
structures and those who recognized that only a new civilization could 
solve the painful problems of the old. 

The Second Wave brought with it a fantastic extension of human hope. 
For the first time men and women dared to believe that poverty, 
hunger, disease, and tyranny might be overthrown. Utopian writers and 
philosophers, from Abbe Morelly and Robert Owen to Saint-Simon, 
Fourier, Proudhon, Louis Blanc, Edward Bellamy, and scores of others, 
saw in the emerging industrial civilization the potential for introducing 

peace, harmony, employment for all, equality of wealth or of 
opportunity, the end of privilege based on birth, the end of all those 
conditions that seemed immutable or eternal during the hundreds of 
thousands of years of primitive existence and the thousands of years 
of agricultural civilization. 

If today industrial civilization seems to us something less than 
Utopian — if it appears, in fact, to be oppressive, dreary, ecologically 
precarious, war-prone, and psychologically repressive — we need to 
understand why. We will be able to answer this question only if we look 
at the gigantic wedge that split the Second Wave psyche into two 
warring parts. 


The Second Wave, like some nuclear chain reaction, violently split 
apart two aspects of our lives that had always, until then, been one. In 
so doing, it drove a giant invisible wedge into our economy, our 
psyches, and even our sexual selves. 

At one level, the industrial revolution created a mar-velously integrated 
social system with its own distinctive technologies, its own social 
institutions, and its own information channels — all plugged tightly into 
each other. Yet, at another level, it ripped apart the underlying unity of 
society, creating a way of life filled with economic tension, social 
conflict, and psychological malaise. Only if we understand how this 
invisible wedge has shaped our lives throughout the Second Wave era 
can we appreciate the full impact of the Third Wave that is beginning to 
reshape us today. 

The two halves of human life that the Second Wave split apart were 
production and consumption. We are accustomed, for example, to 
think of ourselves as producers or consumers. This wasn't always true. 
Until the industrial revolution, the vast bulk of all the food, goods, and 
services produced by the human race was consumed by the producers 
themselves, their families, or a tiny elite who managed to scrape off the 
surplus for their own use. 

In most agricultural societies the great majority of people were 
peasants who huddled together in small, semi-isolated communities. 
They lived on a subsistence diet, growing just barely enough to keep 
themselves alive and their masters happy. Lacking the means for 
storing food over long periods, 




lacking the roads necessary to transport their product to distant 
markets, and well aware that any increase in output was likely to be 
confiscated by the slave-owner or feudal lord, they also lacked any 
great incentive to improve technology or increase production. 

Commerce existed, of course. We know that small numbers of intrepid 
merchants carried goods for thousands of miles by camel, wagon, or 
boat We know that cities sprang up dependent on food from the 
countryside. By 1519, when the Spaniards arrived in Mexico, they were 
astonished to find thousands of people in Tlatelolco engaged in buying 
and selling jewels, precious metals, slaves and sandals, cloth, 
chocolate, ropes, skins, turkeys, vegetables, rabbits, dogs, and pottery 
of a thousand kinds. The Fugger Newsletter, private dispatches 
prepared for German bankers in the sixteenth and seventeenth 
centuries, give colorful evidence of the scope of trade by that time. A 
letter from Cochin, in India, describes in detail the trials of a European 
merchant who arrived with five ships to buy pepper for transport to 
Europe. "A pepper store is fine business," he explains, "but it requires 
great zeal and perseverance." This merchant also shipped cloves, 
nutmeg, flour, cinnamon, mace, and various drugs to the European 

Nevertheless, all this commerce represented only a trace element in 
history, compared with the extent of production for immediate self-use 
by the agricultural slave or serf. Even as late as the sixteenth century, 
according to Fernand Braudel, whose historical research on the period 
is unsurpassed, the entire Mediterranean region — from France and 
Spain at one end to Turkey at the other — supported a population of 
sixty to seventy million, of which 90 percent lived on the soil, producing 
only a small amount of goods for trade. Writes Braudel, "60 percent or 
perhaps 70 percent of the overall production of the Mediterranean 
never entered the market economy." And if this was the case in the 
Mediterranean region, what should we assume of Northern Europe, 
where the rocky soil and long cold winters made it even more difficult 
for peasants to extract a surplus from the soil? 

It will help us understand the Third Wave if we conceive of the First 
Wave economy, before the industrial revolution, as consisting of two 
sectors. In Sector A, people produced for their own use. In Sector B, 
they produced for trade or exchange. Sector A was huge; Sector B 
was tiny. For most 


people, therefore, production and consumption wen- IM-...I into a 
single life-giving function. So complete was HUM umiy that the Greeks, 
the Romans, and the medieval I (mop- .m •< did not distinguish 
between the two. They lacked even n w«>i.i for consumer. Throughout 
the First Wave era only n liny fraction of the population was dependent 
on the maikri; most people lived largely outside it. In the words of the hi 
sic i-rian R. H. Tawney, "pecuniary transactions were a fringe on a 
world of natural economy." 

The Second Wave violently changed this situation. Instead of 
essentially self-sufficient people and communities, it created for the 
first time in history a situation in which the overwhelming bulk of all 
food, goods, and services was destined for sale, barter, or exchange. It 
virtually wiped out of existence goods produced for one's own 
consumption — for use by the actual producer and his or her family — 
and created a civilization in which almost no one, not even a farmer, 

was self-sufficient any longer. Everyone became almost totally 
dependent upon food, goods, or services produced by somebody else. 

In short, industrialism broke the union of production and consumption, 
and split the producer from the consumer. The fused economy of the 
First Wave was transformed into the split economy of the Second 


The consequences of this fission were momentous. Even now we 
scarcely understand them. First, the marketplace — once a minor and 
peripheral phenomenon — moved into the very vortex of life. The 
economy became "marketized" And this happened in both capitalist 
and socialist industrial economies. 

Western economists tend to think of the market as a purely capitalist 
fact of life and often use the term as though it were synonymous with 
''profit economy." Yet from all we know of history, exchange — and 
hence a marketplace — sprang up earlier than, and independently of, 
profit. For the market, properly speaking, is nothing more than an 
exchange network, a switchboard, as it were, through which goods or 
services, like messages, are routed to their appropriate destinations. It 
is not inherently capitalist. Such a switchboard 



is just as essential to a socialist industrial society as it is to profit- 
motivated industrialism.* 

In short, wherever the Second Wave struck and the purpose of 
production shifted from use to exchange, there had to be a mechanism 
through which that exchange could take place. There had to be a 
market. But the market was not passive. The economic historian Karl 
Polanyi has shown how the market, which was subordinated to the 
social or religio-cul-tural goals of early societies, came to set the goals 
of industrial societies. Most people were sucked into the money 
system. Commercial values became central, economic growth (as 
measured by the size of the market) became the primary goal of 
governments, whether capitalist or socialist. 

For the market was an expansive, self-reinforcing institution. Just as 
the earliest division of labor had encouraged commerce in the first 
place, now the very existence of a market or switchboard encouraged 
a further division of labor and led to sharply increased productivity. A 
self-amplifying process had been set in motion. 

This explosive expansion of the market contributed to the fastest rise in 
living standards the world had ever experienced. 

In politics, however, Second Wave governments found themselves 
increasingly torn by a new kind of conflict born of the split between 
production and consumption. The Marxist emphasis on class struggle 
has systematically obscured the larger, deeper conflict that arose 

between the demands of producers (both workers and managers) for 
higher wages, profits, and benefits and the counter-demand of 

* The market as a switchboard must exist whether trade is based on 
money or barter. It must exist whether or not profit is siphoned out of it, 
whether prices follow supply and demand or are fixed by the state, 
whether the system is planned or not, whether the means of production 
are private or public. It must exist even in a hypothetical economy of 
self-managed industrial firms in which workers set their own wages 
high enough to eliminate profit as a category. 

So overlooked is this essential fact, so closely has the market been 
identified with only one of its many variants (the profit-based, private- 
property model, in which prices reflect supply and demand), that there 
is not even a word in the conventional vocabulary of economics to 
express the multiplicity of its forms. 

Throughout these pages, the term "market" is used in its full generic 
sense, rather than hi the customary restrictive way. Semantics aside, 
however, the basic point remains: wherever producer and consumer 
are divorced, some mechanism is needed to mediate between them. 
This mechanism, whatever its form, is what I call the market. 


(including the very same people) for lower prices. The seesaw of 
economic policy rocked on this fulcrum. 

The growth of the consumer movement in the United States, the recent 
uprisings in Poland against government -decreed price hikes, the 
endlessly raging debate in Britain about prices and incomes policy, the 
deadly ideological (struggles in the Soviet Union over whether heavy 
industry or consumer goods should receive first priority, are all aspects 
of the profound conflict engendered in any society, capitalist or 
socialist, by the split between production and consumption. 

Not only politics but culture, too, was shaped by this cleavage, for it 
also produced the most money-minded, grasping, commercialized, and 
calculating civilization in history. One need scarcely be a Marxist to 
agree with The Communist Manifesto's famous accusation that the 
new society "left remaining no other nexus between man and man than 
naked self-interest, than callous 'cash payment.'" Personal 
relationships, family bonds, love, friendship, neighborly and community 
ties all became tinctured or corrupted by commercial self-interest. 

Correct in identifying this dehumanization of interpersonal bonds, Marx 
was incorrect, however, in attributing it to capitalism. He wrote, of 
course, at a time when the only industrial society he could observe was 
capitalist hi form. Today, after more than half a century of experience 
with industrial societies based on socialism, or at least state socialism, 
we know that aggressive acquisitiveness, commercial corruption, and 
the reduction of human relationships to coldly economic terms are no 
monopoly of the profit system. 

For the obsessive concern with money, goods, and things is A 
reflection not of capitalism or socialism, but of industrial-Jnm. It is a 
reflection of the central role of the marketplace in all societies hi which 
production is divorced from consumption, in which everyone is 
dependent upon the marketplace rather than on his or her own 
productive skills for the necessities of life. 

In such a society, irrespective of its political structure, not only products 
are bought, sold, traded, and exchanged, but labor, ideas, art, and 
souls as well. The Western purchasing agent who pockets an illegal 
commission is not so different from the Soviet editor who takes 
kickbacks from authors in return for approving their works for 
publication, or the plumber who demands a bottle of vodka to do what 
he is paid to do. The French or British or American artist who 


writes or paints for money alone is not so different from the Polish, 
Czech, or Soviet novelist, painter, or playwright who sells his creative 
freedom for such economic perquisites as a dacha, bonuses, access to 
a new car or otherwise unobtainable goods. 

Such corruption is inherent in the divorce of production from 
consumption. The very need for a market or switchboard to reconnect 
consumer and producer, to move goods from producer to consumer, 
necessarily places those who control the market in a position of 
inordinate power — regardless of the rhetoric they use to justify that 

This divorce of production from consumption, which became a defining 
feature of all industrial or Second Wave societies, even affected our 
psyches and our assumptions about personality. Behavior came to be 
seen as a set of transactions. Instead of a society based on friendship, 
kinship, or tribal or feudal allegiance, there arose in the wake of the 
Second Wave a civilization based on contractual ties, actual or implied. 
Even husbands and wives today speak of marital contracts. 

The cleavage between these two roles — producer and consumer — 
created at the same time a dual personality. The very same person 
who (as a producer) was taught by family, school, and boss to defer 
gratification, to be disciplined, controlled, restrained, obedient, to be a 
team player, was simultaneously taught (as a consumer) to seek 
instant gratification, to be hedonistic rather than calculating, to 
abandon discipline, to pursue individualistic pleasure — in short, to be a 
totally different kind of person. In the West especially, the full firepower 
of advertising was trained on the consumer, urging her or him to 
borrow, to buy on impulse, to "Fly now, pay later," and, in so doing, to 
perform a -patriotic service by keeping the wheels of the economy 


Finally, the same giant wedge that split producer from consumer in 
Second Wave societies also split work into two kinds. This had an 
enormous impact on family life, sexual roles, and on our inner lives as 

One of the most common sexual stereotypes in industrial society 
defines men as "objective" in orientation, and women as "subjective." If 
there is a kernel of truth here, it probably 



lies not in some fixed biological reality but in the psychological effects 
of the invisible wedge. 

In First Wave societies most work was performed in the fields or in the 
home, with the entire household toiling together as an economic unit 
and with most production destined for consumption within the village or 
manor. Work life and home life were fused and intermingled. And since 
each village was largely self-sufficient, the success of the peasants in 
one place was not dependent upon what happened in another. Even 
within the production unit most workers performed a variety of tasks, 
swapping and shifting roles as demanded by the season, by sickness, 
or by choice. The pre-industrial division of labor was very primitive. As 
a result, work in First Wave agricultural societies was characterized by 
low levels of interdependency. 

The Second Wave, washing across Britain, France, Germany, and 
other countries, shifted work from field and home to factory, and 
introduced a much higher level of interdependency. Work now 
demanded collective effort, division of labor, coordination, the 
integration of many different skills. Its success depended upon the 
carefully scheduled cooperative behavior of thousands of far-flung 
people, many of whom never laid eyes on one another. The failure of a 
major steel mill or glass factory to deliver needed supplies to an auto 
plant could, under certain circumstances, send repercussions 
throughout a whole industry or regional economy. 

The collision of low- and high-interdependency work produced severe 
conflict over roles, responsibilities, and rewards. The early factory 
owners, for example, complained that their workers were 
irresponsible — that they cared little about the efficiency of the factory, 
that they went fishing when most needed, engaged hi horseplay, or 
turned up drunk. In- fact, most of the early industrial workers were rural 
folk who were accustomed to low interdependency, and had little or no 
understanding of their own role in the overall production process or of 
the failures, breakdowns, and malfunctions occasioned by their 
"irresponsibility." Moreover, since most of them earned pitiful wages, 
they had little incentive to care. 

In the clash between these two work systems, the new forms of work 
seemed to triumph. More and more production was transferred to the 
factory and office. The countryside was stripped of population. Millions 
of workers became part of high-interdependence networks. Second 
Wave work 



overshadowed the old backward form associated with the First Wave. 

This victory of interdependence over self-sufficiency, however, was 
never fully consummated. In one place the older form of work 
stubbornly held on. This place was the home. 

Each home remained a decentralized unit engaged in biological 
reproduction, in child-rearing, and in cultural transmission. If one family 
failed to reproduce, or did a poor job of rearing its children and 
preparing them for life in the work system, its failures did not 
necessarily endanger the accomplishment of those tasks by the family 
next door. Housework remained, in other words, a low- 
interdependency activity. 

The housewife continued, as always, to perform a set of crucial 
economic functions. She "produced." But she produced for Sector A — 
for the use of her own family — not for the market. 

As the husband, by and large, marched off to do the direct economic 
work, the wife generally stayed behind to do the indirect economic 
work. The man took responsibility for the historically more advanced 
form of work; the woman was left behind to take care of the older, 
more backward form of work. He moved, as it were, into the future; she 
remained in the past. 

This division produced a split in personality and inner life. The public or 
collective nature of factory and office, the need for coordination and 
integration, brought with it an emphasis on objective analysis and 
objective relationships. Men, prepared from boyhood for their role in 
the shop, where they would move in a world of interdependencies, 
were encouraged to become "objective." Women, prepared from birth 
for the tasks of reproduction, child-rearing, and household drudgery, 
performed to a considerable degree in social isolation, were taught to 
be "subjective" — and were frequently regarded as incapable of the kind 
of rational, analytic thought that supposedly went with objectivity. 

Not surprisingly, women who did leave the relative isolation of the 
household to engage in interdependent production were often accused 
of having been defeminized, of having grown cold, tough, and — 

Sexual differences and sex role stereotypes, moreover, were 
sharpened by the misleading identification of men with production and 
women with consumption, even though men also consumed and 
women also produced. In short, while women 


were oppressed long before the Second Wave began to roll across the 
earth, the modern "battle of the sexes" can be traced in large measure 
to the conflict between two work-styles, and beyond that to the divorce 
of production and con sumption. The split economy deepened the 
sexual split as well. 

What we have seen so far, therefore, is that once the invisible wedge 
was hammered into place, separating producer from consumer, a 
number of profound changes followed: A market had to be formed or 
expanded to connect the two; new political and social conflicts sprang 
up; new sexual roles were defined. But the split implied far more than 
this. It also meant that all Second Wave societies would have to 
operate in similar fashion — that they would have to meet certain basic 
requirements. Whether the object of production was profit or not, 
whether the "means of production" were public or private, whether the 
market was "free" or "planned," whether the rhetoric was capitalist or 
socialist made no difference. 

So long as production was intended for exchange, instead of use, so 
long as it had to flow through the economic switchboard or market, 
certain Second Wave principles had to be followed. 

Once these principles are identified, the hidden dynamics of all 
industrial societies are laid bare. Moreover, we can anticipate how 
Second Wave people typically think. For these principles added up to 
the basic rules, the behavioral code book, of Second Wave civilization. 


Every civilization has a hidden code — a set of rules or principles that 
run through all its activities like a repeated design. As industrialism 
pushed across the planet, its unique hidden design became visible. It 
consisted of a set of six interrelated principles that programmed the 
behavior of millions. Growing naturally out of the divorce of production 
and consumption, these principles affected every aspect of life from 
sex and sports to work and war. 

Much of the angry conflict in our schools, businesses, and 
governments today actually centers on these half-dozen principles, as 
Second Wave people instinctively apply and defend them and Third 
Wave people challenge and attack them. But that is getting ahead of 
the story. 


The most familiar of these Second Wave principles is standardization. 
Everyone knows that industrial societies turn out millions of identical 
products. Fewer people have stopped to notice, however, that once the 
market became important, we did more than simply standardize Coca- 
Cola bottles, light bulbs, and auto transmissions. We applied the same 
principle to many other things. Among the first to grasp the importance 
of this idea was Theodore Vail who, at the turn of the century, built the 
American Telephone & Telegram Company into a giant* 

*Not to be confused with the multinational ITT, the International 
Telephone & Telegraph Corporation. 



Working as a railway postal clerk in the late 1860's, Vail had noticed 
that no two letters necessarily went to their destinations via the same 
route. Sacks of mail traveled back and forth, often taking weeks or 
months to reach their destinations. Vail introduced the idea of 
standardized routing — all letters going to the same place would go the 
same way — and helped revolutionize the post office. When he later 
formed AT&T, he set out to place an identical telephone in every 
American home. 

Vail standardized not only the telephone handset and all its 
components but AT&Ts business procedures and administration as 
well. In a 1908 advertisement he justified his swallowing up small 
telephone companies by arguing for "a clearing-house of 
standardization" that would ensure economy in "construction of 
equipment, lines and conduits, as well as hi operating methods and 
legal work," not to mention "a uniform system of operating and 
accounting." What Vail recognized is that to succeed in the Second 
Wave environment, "software" — i.e., procedures and administrative 
routines — had to be standardized along with hardware. 

Vail was only one of the Great Standardizes who shaped industrial 
society. Another was Frederick Winslow Taylor, a machinist turned 
crusader, who believed that work could be made scientific by 
standardizing the steps each worker performed. In the early decades 
of this century Taylor decided that there was one best (standard) way 
to perform each job, one best (standard) tool to perform it with, and a 
stipulated (standard) tune hi which to complete it. 

Armed with this philosophy, he became the world's leading 
management guru. In his time, and later, he was compared with Freud, 
Marx, and Franklin. Nor were capitalist employers, eager to squeeze 
the last ounce of productivity from their workers, alone in their 
admiration for Taylorism, with its efficiency experts, piece-work 
schemes, and rate-busters. Communists shared their enthusiasm. 
Indeed, Lenin urged that Taylor's methods be adapted for use in 
socialist production. An industrializer first and a Communist second, 
Lenin, too, was a zealous believer hi standardization. 

In Second Wave societies, hiring procedures as well as work were 
increasingly standardized. Standardized tests were used to identify 
and weed out the supposedly unfit, especially in the civil service. Pay 
scales were Standardized throughout whole industries, along with 
fringe benefits, lunch hours, holidays, and grievance procedures. To 
prepare youth for the job 



market, educators designed standardized curricula. Men like Binet and 
Terman devised standardized intelligence tests. School grading 
policies, admission procedures, and accreditation rules were similarly 
standardized. The multiple-choice test came into its own. 

The mass media, meanwhile, disseminated standardizing imagery, so 
that millions read the same advertisements, the same news, the same 

short stories. The repression of minority languages by central 
governments, combined with the influence of mass communications, 
led to the near disappearance of local and regional dialects or even 
whole languages, such as Welsh and Alsatian. "Standard" American, 
English, French, or, for that matter, Russian, supplanted "nonstan- 
dard" languages. Different parts of the country began to look alike, as 
identical gas stations, billboards, and houses cropped up everywhere. 
The principle of standardization ran through every aspect of daily life. 

At an even deeper level, industrial civilization needed standardized 
weights and measures. It is no accident that one of the first acts of the 
French Revolution, which ushered the age of industrialism into France, 
was an attempt to replace the crazy-quilt patchwork of measuring 
units, common in preindustrial Europe, with the metric system and a 
new calendar. Uniform measures were spread through much of the 
world by the Second Wave. 

Moreover, if mass production required the standardization of 
machines, products, and processes, the ever-expanding market 
demanded a corresponding standardization of money, and even 
prices. Historically, money had been issued by banks and private 
individuals as well as by kings. Even as late as the nineteenth century 
privately minted money was still in use in parts of the United States, 
and the practice lasted until 1935 hi Canada. Gradually, however, 
industrializing nations suppressed all nongovernmental currencies and 
managed to impose a single standard currency in their place. 

Until the nineteenth century, moreover, it was still common for buyers 
and sellers hi industrial countries to haggle over every sale in the time- 
honored fashion of a Cairo bazaar. In 1825 a young Northern Irish 
immigrant named A. T. Stewart arrived in New York, opened a dry- 
goods store, and shocked customers and competitors alike by 
introducing a fixed price for every item. This one-price policy — price 
standardization — made Stewart one of the merchant princes of his 



era and cleared away one of the key obstacles to the development of 
mass distribution. 

Whatever their other disagreements, advanced Second Wave thinkers 
shared the conviction that standardization was efficient. At many 
levels, therefore, the Second Wave brought a flattening out of 
differences through a relentless application of the principle of 


A second great principle ran through all Second Wave societies: 
specialization. For the more the Second Wave eliminated diversity in 
language, leisure, and life-style, the more it needed diversity in the 
sphere of work. Accelerating the division of labor, the Second Wave 
replaced the casual jack-of-all-work peasant with the narrow, purse- 

lipped specialist and the worker who did only one task, Taylor-fashion, 
over and over again. 

As early as 1720 a British report on The Advantages of the East India 
Trade made the point that specialization could get jobs done with "less 
loss of time and labour." In 1776 Adam Smith opened The Wealth of 
Nations with the ringing assertion that "the greatest improvement in the 
productive powers of labour . . . seem[s] to have been the effects of the 
division of labour." 

Smith, in a classic passage, described the manufacture of a pin. A 
single old-style workman, performing all the necessary operations by 
himself, he wrote, could turn out only a handful of pins each day — no 
more than twenty and perhaps not oven one. By contrast, Smith 
described a "manufactory" he Inul visited in which the eighteen 
different operations required to make a pin were carried out by ten 
specialized workers, each performing only one or a few steps. 

Together they were able to produce more than forty-eight thousand 
pins per day-over forty-eight hundred per worker. 

By the nineteenth century, as more and more work shifted into the 
factory, the pin story was repeated again and again on an even-larger 
scale. And the human costs of specialization escalated accordingly. 
Critics of industrialism charged that highly specialized repetitive labor 
progressively dehumanized the worker. 

By the time Henry Ford started manufacturing Model Ts in 1908 it took 
not eighteen different operations to complete 



a unit but 7,882. In his autobiography, Ford noted that of these 7,882 
specialized jobs, 949 required "strong, able-bodied, and practically 
physically perfect men," 3,338 needed men of merely "ordinary" 
physical strength, most of the rest could be performed by "women or 
older children," and, he continued coolly, "we found that 670 could be 
filled by legless men, 2,637 by one-legged men, two by armless men, 
715 by one-armed men and 10 by blind men." In short, the specialized 
job required not a whole person, but only a part. No more vivid 
evidence that overspecialization can be brutalizing has ever been 

A practice which critics attributed to capitalism, however, became an 
inbuilt feature of socialism as well. For the extreme specialization of 
labor that was common to all Second Wave societies had its roots in 
the divorce of production from consumption. The U.S.S.R., Poland, 

East Germany, or Hungary can no more run their factories today 
without elaborate specialization than can Japan or the United States — 
whose Department of Labor in 1977 published a list of twenty thousand 
identifiably different occupations. 

In both capitalist and socialist industrial states, moreover, 
specialization was accompanied by a rising tide of profession-alization. 
Whenever the opportunity arose for some group of specialists to 

monopolize esoteric knowledge and keep newcomers out of their field, 
professions emerged. As the Second Wave advanced, the market 
intervened between a knowledge-holder and a client, dividing them 
sharply into producer and consumer. Thus, health in Second Wave 
societies came to be seen as a product provided by a doctor and a 
health-delivery bureaucracy, rather than a result of intelligent self-care 
(production for use) by the patient. Education was supposedly 
''produced'' by the teacher in the school and "consumed" by the 

All sorts of occupational groups from librarians to salesmen began 
clamoring for the right to call themselves professionals — and for the 
power to set standards, prices, and conditions of entry into their 
specialties. By now, according to Michael Pertschuk, Chairman of the 
U.S. Federal Trade Commission, "Our culture is dominated by 
professionals who call us 'clients' and tell us of our 'needs.'" 

In Second Wave societies even political agitation was conceived of as 
a profession. Thus Lenin argued that the masses could not bring about 
a revolution without professional help. What was needed, he asserted, 
was an "organiza- 



tion of revolutionaries" limited in membership to "people whose 
profession is that of a revolutionary." 

Among communists, capitalists, executives, educators, priests, and 
politicians, the Second Wave produced a common mentality and a 
drive toward an ever more refined division of labor. Like Prince Albert 
at the great Crystal Palace Exhibition of 1851, they believed that 
specialization was "the moving power of civilization." The Great 
Standardizes and The Great Specializes marched hand in hand. 


The widening split between production and consumption also forced a 
change in the way Second Wave people dealt with time. In a market- 
dependent system, whether the market is planned or free, time equals 
money. Expensive machines cannot be allowed to sit idly, and they 
operate at rhythms of their own. This produced the third principle of 
industrial civilization: synchronization. 

Even in the earliest societies work had to be carefully organized in 
time. Warriors often had to work in unison to trap their prey. Fishermen 
had to coordinate then* efforts in rowing or hauling hi the nets. George 
Thomson, many years ago, showed how various work songs reflected 
the requirements of labor. For the oarsmen, time was marked by a 
simple two-syllable sound like O— op! The second syllable indicated 
the moment of maximum exertion while the first was the time for 
preparation. Hauling a boat, he noted, was heavier work than rowing, 
"so the moments of exertion are spaced in longer intervals," and we 
see, as in the Irish hauling cry Ho-H-ho-hupi, a longer preparation for 
the final effort. 

Until the Second Wave brought in machinery and silenced* the songs 
of the worker, most such synchronization of effort was organic or 
natural. It flowed from the rhythm of the seasons and from biological 
processes, from the earth's rotation and the beat of the heart. Second 
Wave societies, by contrast, moved to the beat of the machine. 

As factory production spread, the high cost of machinery and the close 
interdependence of labor required a much more refined 
synchronization. If one group of workers in a plant was late in 
completing a task, others down the line would be further delayed. Thus 
punctuality, never very important in agricultural communities, became 
a social necessity, and 



clocks and watches began to proliferate. By the 1790's they were 
already becoming commonplace hi Britain. Their diffusion came, in the 
words of British historian E. P. Thompson, "at the exact moment when 
the industrial revolution demanded a greater synchronization of labor." 

Not by coincidence, children hi industrial cultures were taught to tell 
time at an early age. Pupils were conditioned to arrive at school when 
the bell rang so that later on they would arrive reliably at the factory or 
office when the whistle blew. Jobs were timed and split into sequences 
measured hi fractions of a second. "Nine-to-five" formed the temporal 
frame for millions of workers. 

Nor was it only working life that was synchronized. In all Second Wave 
societies, regardless of profit or political considerations, social life, too, 
became clock-driven and adapted to machine requirements. Certain 
hours were set aside for leisure. Standard-length vacations, holidays, 
or coffee breaks were interspersed with the work schedules. 

Children began and ended the school year at uniform times. Hospitals 
woke all their patients for breakfast simultaneously. Transport systems 
staggered under rush hours. Broadcasters fitted entertainment into 
special time slots — "prime time," for example. Every business had its 
own peak hours or seasons, synchronized with those of its suppliers 
and distributors. Specialists in synchronization arose — from factory 
expediters and schedulers to traffic police and tune-study men. 

By contrast, some people resisted the new industrial time system. And 
here again sexual differences arose. Those who participated hi Second 
Wave work — chiefly men — became the most conditioned to clock-time. 

Second Wave husbands continually complained that their wives kept 
them waiting, that they had no regard for time, that it took them forever 
to dress, that they were always late for appointments. Women, 
primarily engaged in noninterde-pendent housework, worked to less 
mechanical rhythms. For similar reasons urban populations tended to 
look down upon rural folk as slow and unreliable. "They don't show up 
on time! You never know whether they'll keep an appointment." Such 
complaints could be traced directly to the difference between Second 

Wave work based on heightened interdependence and the First Wave 
work centered in the field and the home. 


Once the Second Wave became dominant even the most intimate 
routines of life were locked into the industrial pacing system. In the 
United States and the Soviet Union, in Singapore and Sweden, in 
France and Denmark, Germany and Japan, families arose as one, ate 
at the same time, commuted, worked, returned home, went to bed, 
slept, and even made love more or less in unison as the entire 
civilization, in addition to standardization and specialization, applied 
the principle of synchronization. 


The rise of the market gave birth to yet another rule of Second Wave 
civilization — the principle of concentration. 

First Wave societies lived off widely dispersed sources of energy. 
Second Wave societies became almost totally dependent on highly 
concentrated deposits of fossil fuel. 

But the Second Wave concentrated more than energy. It also 
concentrated population, stripping the countryside of people and 
relocating them in giant urban centers. It even concentrated work. 

While work in First Wave societies took place everywhere — in the 
home, hi the village, in the fields — much of the work in Second Wave 
societies was done in factories where thousands of laborers were 
drawn together under a single roof. 

Nor was it only energy and work that were concentrated. Writing in the 
British social science journal New Society, Stan Cohen has pointed out 
that, with minor exceptions, prior to industrialism "the poor were kept at 
home or with relatives; criminals were fined, whipped or banished from 
one settlement to another; the insane were kept hi their families, or 
supported by the community, if they were poor." All thes.e groups 
were, hi short, dispersed throughout the community. 

Industrialism revolutionized the situation. The early nineteenth century, 
in fact, has been called the time of the Great Incarcerations — when 
criminals were rounded up and concentrated in prisons, the mentally ill 
rounded up and concentrated in "lunatic asylums," and children 
rounded up and concentrated in schools, exactly as workers were 
concentrated in factories. 

Concentration occurred also in capital flows, so that Second Wave 
civilization gave birth to the giant corporation and, beyond that, the 
trust or monopoly. By the mid-1960s, the 


Big Three auto companies in the United States produced 94 percent of 
all American cars. In Germany four coca panics — Volkswagen, 
Daimler-Benz, Opel (GM), and Ford-Werke — together accounted for 91 
percent of production. In France, Renault, Citroen, Simca, and 

Peugeot turned out virtually 100 percent. In Italy, Fiat alone built 90 
percent of all autos. 

Similarly, in the United States 80 percent or more of aluminum, beer, 
cigarettes, and breakfast foods were produced by four or five 
companies in each field. In Germany 92 percent of all the plasterboard 
and dyes, 98 percent of photo film, 91 percent of industrial sewing 
machines, were produced by four or fewer companies in each 
respective category. The list of highly concentrated industries goes on 
and on. 

Socialist managers were also convinced that concentration of 
production was "efficient." Indeed, many Marxist ideologues in the 
capitalist countries welcomed the growing concentration of industry in 
capitalist countries as a necessary step along the way to the ultimate 
total concentration of industry under state auspices. Lenin spoke of the 
"conversion of all citizens into workers and employees of one huge 
'syndicate' — the whole state." Half a century later the Soviet economist 
N. Lelyukhina, writing in Voprosy Ekonomiki could report that "the 
USSR possesses the most concentrated industry in the world." 

Whether in energy, population, work, education, or economic 
organization, the concentrative principle of Second Wave civilization 
ran deep — deeper, indeed, than any ideological differences between 
Moscow and the West. 


The split-up of production and consumption also created, in all Second 
Wave societies, a case of obsessive "macro-philia" — a kind of Texan 
infatuation with bigness and growth. If it were true that long production 
runs in the factory would produce lower unit costs, then, by analogy, 
increases in scale would produce economies in other activities as well. 
"Big" became synonymous with "efficient," and maximization became 
the fifth key principle. 

Cities and nations would boast of having the tallest skyscraper, the 
largest dam, or the world's biggest miniature golf 


course. Since bigness, moreover, was the result of growth, most 
industrial governments, corporations, and other organizations pursued 
the ideal of growth frenetically. 

Japanese workers and managers at the Matsushita Electric Company 
would jointly chorus each day: 

... Doing our best to promote production, 

Sending our goods to the people of the world, 

Endlessly and continuously. 

Like water gushing from a fountain. 

Grow, industry, Grow, Grow, Grow! 

Harmony and sincerity! 

Matsushita Electric! 

In 1960, as the United States completed the stage of traditional 
industrialism and began to feel the first effects of the Third Wave of 
change, its fifty largest industrial corporations had grown to employ an 
average of 80,000 workers each. General Motors alone employed 
595,000, and one utility, Vail's AT&T, employed 736,000 women and 
men. This meant, at an average household size of 3.3 that year, that 
well over 2,000,000 people were dependent upon paychecks from this 
one company alone — a group equal to one half the population of the 
entire country when Hamilton and Washington were stitching it into a 
nation. (Since then AT&T has swollen to even more gargantuan 
proportions. By 1970 it employed 956,000 — having added 136,000 
employees to its work force in a single twelve-month period.) 

AT&T was a special case and, of course, Americans were peculiarly 
addicted to bigness. But macrophilia was no monopoly of ib.e 
Americans. In France in 1963 fourteen hundred firms — a mere V* of 1 
percent of all companies — employed fully 38 percent of the work force. 
Governments in Germany, Britain, and other countries actively 
encouraged mergers to create even larger companies, in the belief that 
larger scale would help them compete against the American giants. 

Nor was this scale maximization simply a reflection of profit 
maximization. Marx had associated the "increasing scale of industrial 
establishments" with the "wider development of their material powers.'* 
Lenin, in turn, argued that "huge enterprises, trusts and syndicates had 
brought the mass production technique to its highest level of 
development." His first order of business after the Soviet revolution 
was to con- 



solidate Russian economic life into the smallest possible number of the 
largest possible units. Stalin pushed even harder for maximum scale 
and built vast new projects — the steel complex at Magnitogorsk, 
another at Zaporozhstal, the Balkhash copper smelting plant, the 
tractor plants at Kharkov and Stalingrad. He would ask how large a 
given American installation was, then order construction of an even 
larger one. 

In The Cult of Bigness in Soviet Economic Planning, Dr. Leon M. 
Herman writes: "In various parts of the USSR, hi fact, local politicians 
became involved in a race for attracting the ‘world's largest projects.'" 
By 1938 the Communist party warned against "gigantomania," but with 
little effect Even today Soviet and East European communist leaders 
are victims of what Herman calls "the addiction to bigness.*' 

Such faith in sheer scale derived from narrow Second Wave 
assumptions about the nature of "efficiency." But the macrophilia of 

industrialism went beyond mere plants. It was reflected in the 
aggregation of many different kinds of data into the statistical tool 
known as Gross National Product, which measured the "scale'* of an 
economy by totting up the value of goods and services produced in it 
This tool of the Second Wave economists had many failings. From the 
point of view of GNP it didn't matter whether the output was in the form 
of food, education and health services, or munitions. The hiring of a 
crew to build a home or to demolish one both added to GNP, even 
though one activity added to the stock of housing and the other 
subtracted from it GNP also, because it measured only market activity 
or exchanges, relegated to insignificance a whole vital sector of the 
economy based on unpaid production — child-rearing and housework, 
for example. 

Despite these shortcomings, Second Wave governments around the 
world entered into a blind race to increase GNP at all costs, 
maximizing "growth" even at the risk of ecological and social disaster. 
The macrophiliac principle was built so deeply into the industrial 
mentality that nothing seemed more reasonable. Maximization went 
along with standardization, specialization, and the other industrial 
ground rules. 


Finally, all industrial nations developed centralization into a fine art. 
While the Church and many First Wave rulers 



knew perfectly well how to centralize power, they dealt with far less 
complex societies and were crude amateurs by contrast with the men 
and women who centralized industrial societies from the ground floor 

All complicated societies require a mixture of both centralized and 
decentralized operations. But the shift from a basically decentralized 
First Wave economy, with each locality largely responsible for 
producing its own necessities, to the integrated national economies of 
the Second Wave led to totally new methods for centralizing power. 
These came into play at the level of individual companies, industries, 
and the economy as a whole. 

The early railroads provide a classic illustration. Compared with other 
businesses they were the giants of their day. In the United States in 
1850 only forty-one factories had a capitalization of 250 thousand 
dollars or more. By contrast, the New York Central Railroad as early as 
1860 boasted a capitalization of 30 million dollars. To run such a 
gargantuan enterprise, new management methods were needed. 

The early railroad managers, therefore, like the managers of titte space 
program in our own era, had to invent new techniques. They 
standardized technologies, fares, and schedules. They synchronized 
operations over hundreds of miles. They created specialized new 
occupations and departments. They concentrated capital, energy, and 

people. They fought to maximize the scale of then* networks. And to 
accomplish all this they created new forms of organization based on 
centralization of information and command. 

Employees were divided into "line" and "staff." Daily reports were 
initiated to provide data on car movements, loadings, damages, lost 
freight, repairs, engine miles, et cetera. All this information flowed up a 
centralized chain of command until it reached the general 
superintendent who made the decisions and sent orders down the line. 

The railroads, as business historian Alfred D. Chandler, Jr., has 
shown, soon became a model for other large organizations, and 
centralized management came to be regarded as an advanced, 
sophisticated tool in all the Second Wave nations. 

In politics, too, the Second Wave encouraged centralization. In the 
United States, as early as the late 1780's, this was illustrated by the 
battle to replace the loose, decentralist Articles of Confederation with a 
more centralist Constitution. Generally the First Wave rural interests 
resisted the concentration of power in the national government, while 


Wave commercial interests led by Hamilton argued, in The Federalist 
and elsewhere, that a strong central government was essential not 
only for military and foreign policy reasons but for economic growth. 

The resultant Constitution of 1787 was an ingenious compromise. 
Because First Wave forces were still strong, the Constitution reserved 
important powers to the states rather than the central government. To 
prevent overly strong central power it also called for a unique 
separation of legislative, executive, and judicial powers. But the 
Constitution also contained elastic language that would eventually 
permit the federal government to extend its reach drastically. 

As industrialization pushed the political system toward greater 
centralization, the government in Washington took on an increasing 
number of powers and responsibilities and monopolized more and 
more decision-making at the center. Within the federal government, 
meanwhile, power shifted from Congress and the courts to the most 
centralist of three branches — the Executive. By the Nixon years, 
historian Arthur Schlesinger (himself once an ardent centralizer) was 
attacking the "imperial presidency." 

The pressures toward political centralization were even stronger 
outside the United States. A quick look at Sweden, Japan, Britain, or 
France is enough to make the U.S. system seem decentralized by 
comparison. Jean-Franc. ois Revel, au* thor of Without Marx or Jesus, 
makes this point in describing how governments respond to political 
protest: "When a demonstration is forbidden in France, there is never 
any doubt about the source of the prohibition. If it is a question of a 
major political demonstration, it is the [central] government," he says. 
"In the United States, however, when a demonstration is forbidden, the 

first question everyone asks is, 'By whom?'" Revel points out that it is 
usually some local authority operating autonomously. 

The extremes of political centralization were found, of course, in the 
Marxist industrial nations. In 1850 Marx called for a "decisive 
centralization of power in the hands of the state." Engels, like Hamilton 
before him, attacked decentralized confederations as "an enormous 
step backward." Later on the Soviets, eager to accelerate 
industrialization, proceeded to construct the most highly centralized 
political and economic structure of all, submitting even the smallest of 
production decisions to the control of central planners. 


The gradual centralization of a once decentralized economy was 
aided, moreover, by a crucial invention whose very name reveals its 
purpose: the central bank. 

In 1694, at the very dawn of the industrial age, while Newcomen was 
still tinkering with the steam engine, William Paterson organized the 
Bank of England — which became a template for similar centralist 
institutions hi all Second Wave countries. No country could complete 
its Second Wave phase without constructing its own equivalent of this 
machine for the central control of money and credit. 

Paterson's bank sold government bonds; it issued government-backed 
currency; it later began to regulate the lending practices of other 
banks. Eventually it took on the primary function of all central banks 
today: central control of the money supply. In 1800 the Banque de 
France was formed for similar purposes. This was followed by the 
formation of the Reichsbank in 1875. 

In the United States the collision between First and Second Wave 
forces led to a major battle over central banking shortly after the 
adoption of the constitution. Hamilton, the most brilliant advocate of 
Second Wave policies, argued for a national bank on the English 
model. The South and the frontier West, still wedded to agriculture, 
opposed him. Nevertheless, with the support of the industrializing 
Northeast, he succeeded hi forcing through legislation that created the 
Bank of the United States — forerunner of today's Federal Reserve 

Employed by governments to regulate the level and rate of market 
activity, central banks introduced — by the back door, as it were — a 
degree of unofficial short-range planning into capitalist economies. 
Money flowed through every artery in Second Wave societies, both 
capitalist and socialist. Both needed, and therefore created, a 
centralized money pumping station. Central banking and centralized 
government marched hand in hand. Centralization was another 
dominating principle of Second Wave civilization. 

What we see, therefore, is a set of six guiding principles, a "program" 
that operated to one de*" A or another in all the Second Wave 
countries. These half-dozen principles — standardization, specialization, 
synchronization, concentration, maximization, and centralization — were 
applied in both the capitalist and socialist wings of industrial society 

because Hiry grew, inescapably, out of the basic cleavage between 



ducer and consumer and the ever-expanding role of the market. 

These principles hi turn, each reinforcing the other, led relentlessly to 
the rise of bureaucracy. They produced some of the biggest, most 
rigid, most powerful bureaucratic organizations the world had ever 
seen, leaving the individual to wander in a Kafka-like world of looming 
mega-organizations. If today we feel oppressed and overpowered by 
them, we can trace our problems to the hidden code that programmed 
the civilization of the Second Wave. 

The six principles that formed this code lent a distinctive stamp to 
Second Wave civilization. Today, as we shall shortly see, every one of 
these fundamental principles is under attack by the forces of the Third 

So, indeed, are the Second Wave elites who are still applying these 
rules — in business, in banking, in labor relations, in government, in 
education, in the media. For the rise of a new civilization challenges all 
the vested interests of the old one. 

In the upheavals that lie immediately ahead, the elites of all industrial 
societies — so accustomed to setting the rules — will in all likelihood go 
the way of the feudal lords of the past. Some will be by -passed. Some 
will be dethroned. Some will be reduced to impotence or shabby 
gentility. Some — the most intelligent and adaptive — will be transformed 
and emerge as leaders of the Third Wave civilization. 

To understand who will run things tomorrow when the Third Wave 
becomes dominant, we must first know exactly who runs things today. 


The question "Who runs things?" is a typically Second Wave question. 
For until the industrial revolution there was little reason to ask it. 
Whether ruled by kings or shamans, warlords, sun gods, or saints, 
people were seldom in doubt as to who held power over them. The 
ragged peasant, looking up from the fields, saw the palace or 
monastery looming hi splendor on the horizon. He needed no political 
scientist or newspaper pundit to solve the riddle of power. Everyone 
knew who was in charge. 

Wherever the Second Wave swept in, however, a new kind of power 
emerged, diffuse and faceless. Those in power became the 
anonymous "they." Who were "they"? 


Industrialism, as we have seen, broke society into thousands of 
interlocking parts — factories, churches, schools, trade unions, prisons, 

hospitals, and the like. It broke the line of command between church, 
state, and individual. It broke knowledge into specialized disciplines. It 
broke jobs into fragments. It broke families into smaller units. In doing 
so, it shattered community life and culture. 

Somebody had to put things back together in a different form. 

This need gave rise to many new kinds of specialists whose basic task 
was integration. Calling themselves executives or 



administrators, commissars, coordinators, presidents, vice* presidents, 
bureaucrats, or managers, they cropped up in every business, in every 
government, and at every level of society. And they proved 
indispensable. They were the integrators. 

They defined roles and allocated jobs. They decided who got what 
rewards. They made plans, set criteria, and gave or withheld 
credentials. They linked production, distribution, transport, and 
communications. They set the rules under which organizations 
interacted. In short, they fitted the pieces of the society together. 
Without them the Second Wave system could never have run. 

Marx, in the mid-nineteenth century, thought that whoever owned the 
tools and technology — the "means of production" — would control 
society. He argued that, because work was interdependent, workers 
could disrupt production and seize the tools from their boses. Once 
they owned the tools, they would rule society. 

Yet history played a trick on him. For the very same inter-dependency 
gave even greater leverage to a new group — those who orchestrated 
or integrated the system. In the end it-was neither the owners nor the 
workers who came to power. In both capitalist and socialist nations, it 
was the integrators who rose to the top. 

It was not ownership of the "means of production" that gave power. It 
was control of the "means of integration.** Let's see what that has 

In business the earliest integrators were the factory proprietors, the 
business entrepreneurs, the mill owners and ironmasters. The owner 
and a few aides were usually able to coordinate the labor of a large 
number of unskilled "hands" and to integrate the firm into the larger 

Since, in that period, owner and integrator were one and the same, it is 
not surprising that Marx confused the two and laid so heavy an 
emphasis on ownership. As production grew more complex, however, 
and the division of labor more specialized, business witnessed an 
incredible proliferation of executives and experts who, came between 
the boss and his workers. Paperwork mushroomed. Soon in the larger 
firms no individual, including the owner or dominant shareholder, could 
even begin to understand the whole operation. The owner's decisions 

were shaped, and ultimately controlled, by the specialists brought in to 
coordinate the system. Thus a 



new executive elite arose whose power rested no longer on ownership 
but rather on control of the integration process. 

As the manager grew in power, the stockholder grew less important. 

As companies grew bigger, family owners sold out to larger and larger 
groups of dispersed shareholders, few of whom knew anything about 
the actual operations of the business. Increasingly, shareholders had 
to rely on hired managers not merely to run the day-to-day affairs of 
the company but even to set its long-range goals and strategies. 

Boards of directors, theoretically representing the owners, were 
themselves increasingly remote and ill-informed about the operations 
they were supposed to direct. And as more and more private 
investment was made not by individuals but indirectly through 
institutions like pension funds, mutual funds, and the trust departments 
of banks, the actual "owners" of industry were still further removed 
from control. 

The new power of the integrators was, perhaps, most clearly 
expressed by W. Michael Blumenthal, former U.S. Secretary of the 
Treasury. Before entering government Blumenthal headed the Bendix 
Corporation. Once asked if he would some day like to own Bendix, 
Blumenthal replied: "It's not ownership that counts — it's control. And as 
Chief Executive that's what I've got! We have a shareholders' meeting 
next week, and I've got ninety-seven percent of the vote. I only own 
eight thousand shares. Control is what's important to me. ... To have 
the control over this large animal and to use it in a constructive way, 
that's what I want, rather than doing silly things that others want me to 

Business policies were thus increasingly fixed by the hired managers 
of the firm or by money managers placing other people's money, but in 
neither case by the actual owners, let alone by the workers. The 
integrators took charge. 

All this had certain parallels in the socialist nations. As early as 1921 
Lenin felt called upon to denounce his own Soviet bureaucracy. 

Trotsky, in exile by 1930, charged that there were already five to six 
million managers in a class that "does not engage directly in productive 
labor, but administers, orders, commands, pardons and punishes." The 
means of production might belong to the state, he charged, "But the 
state . . . 'belongs* to the bureaucracy." In the 1950's Mi-lovan Djilas, in 
The New Class, attacked the growing power of the managerial elites in 
Yugoslavia. Tito, who imprisoned Djilas, himself complained about 
"technocracy, bureaucracy, 



the class enemy." And fear of managerialism was the central theme in 
Mao's China.* 

Under socialism as well as capitalism, therefore, the integrators took 
effective power. For without them the parts of the system could not 
work together. The "machine" would not run. 


Integrating a single business, or even a whole industry, was only a 
small part of what had to be done. Modern industrial society, as we 
have seen, developed a host of organizations, from labor unions and 
trade associations to churches, schools, health clinics, and recreational 
groups, all of which had to work within a framework of predictable 
rules. Laws were needed. Above all, the info-sphere, socio-sphere, 
and techno-sphere had to be brought into alignment with one another. 

Out of this driving need for the integration of Second Wave civilization 
came the biggest coordinator of all — the in-tegrational engine of the 
system: big government. It is the system's hunger for integration that 
explains the relentless rise of big government in every Second Wave 

Again and again political demagogues arose to call for smaller 
government. Yet, once in office, the very same leaders expanded 
rather than contracted the size of government. This contradiction 
between rhetoric and real life becomes understandable the moment we 
recognize that the transcendent aim of all Second Wave governments 
has been to construct and maintain industrial civilization. Against this 
commitment, all lesser differences faded. Parties and politicians might 
squabble over other issues, but on this they were in tacit agreement 
And big government was part of their unspoken program regardless of 
the tune they sang, because industrial societies depend on 
government to perform essential inte-grational tasks. 

In the words of political columnist Clayton Fritchey, the United States 
federal government never ceased to grow, even under three recent 
Republican administrations, "for the 

* Mao, leading the world's biggest First Wave nation, repeatedly 
warned against the rise of managerial elites and saw this as a 
dangerous concomitant of traditional industrialism. 



simple reason that not even Houdini could dismantle it without serious 
and harmful consequences." 

Free marketeers have argued that governments interfere with 
business. But left to private enterprise alone, industrialization would 
have come much more slowly — if, indeed, it could have come at all. 
Governments quickened the development of the railroad. They built 
harbors, roads, canals, and highways. They operated postal services 
and built or regulated telegraph, telephone, and broadcast systems. 

They wrote commercial codes and standardized markets. They applied 
foreign policy pressures and tariffs to aid industry. They drove farmers 
off the land and into the industrial labor supply. They subsidized 
energy and advanced technology, often through military channels. At a 
thousand levels, governments assumed the integrative tasks that 
others could not, or would not, perform. 

For government was the great accelerator. Because of its coercive 
power and tax revenues, it could do things that private enterprise could 
not afford to undertake. Governments could "hot up" the 
industrialization process by stepping in to fill emerging gaps in the 
system — before it became possible or profitable for private companies 
to do so. Governments could perform "anticipatory integration.*' 

By setting up mass education systems, governments not only helped 
to machine youngsters for their future roles in the industrial work force 
(hence, in effect, subsidizing industry) but also simultaneously 
encouraged the spread of the nuclear family form. By relieving the 
family of educational and other traditional functions, governments 
accelerated the adaptation of family structure to the needs of the 
factory system. At many different levels, therefore, governments 
orchestrated the complexity of Second Wave civilization. 

Not surprisingly, as integration grew in importance both the substance 
and style of government changed. Presidents and prime ministers, for 
example, came to see themselves primarily as managers rather than 
as creative social and political leaders. In personality and manner they 
became almost interchangeable with the men who ran the large 
companies and production enterprises. While offering the obligatory lip 
service to democracy and social justice, the Nixons, Carters, 
Thatchers, Brezhnevs, Giscards, and Ohiras of the industrial world 
rode into office by promising little more than efficient management. 



Across the board, therefore, in socialist as well as capitalist industrial 
societies, the same pattern emerged — big companies or production 
organizations and a huge governmental machine. And rather than 
workers seizing the means of production, as Marx predicted, or 
capitalists retaining power, as Adam Smith's followers might have 
preferred, a wholly new A — force arose to challenge both. The 
technicians of power V seized the "means of integration" and, with it, 
the reins of so-j cial, cultural, political, and economic control. Second 
Wave I societies were ruled by the integrators, 


These technicians of power were themselves organized into 
hierarchies of elites and sub-elites. Every industry and branch of 
government soon gave birth to its own establishment, its own powerful 

Sports . . . religion . . . education . . . each had its own pyramid of 
power. A science establishment, a defense establishment, a cultural 
establishment sprang up. Power in Second Wave civilization was 
parceled out to scores, hundreds, even thousands of such specialized 

In turn, these specialized elites were themselves integrated by 
generalist elites whose membership cut across all the specializations. 
For example, in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe the Communist 
party had members in every field from aviation to music and steel 
manufacture. Communist party members served as a crucial grapevine 
carrying messages from one sub-elite to another. Because it had 
access to all information, it had enormous power to regulate the 
specialist sub-elites. In the capitalist countries, leading businessmen 
and lawyers, serving on civic committees or boards, performed similar 
functions in a less formal way. What we see, therefore, in all Second 
Wave nations are specialized groups of integrators, bureaucrats, or 
executives, themselves integrated by generalist integrators. 


Finally, at yet a higher level, integration was imposed by the "super- 
elites" in charge of investment allocation. Whether in finance or 
industry, in the Pentagon or in the Soviet plan- 


ning bureaucracy, those who made the major investment allocations in 
industrial society set the limits within which the integrators themselves 
were compelled to function. Once a truly large-scale investment 
decision had been made, whether in Minneapolis or Moscow, it limited 
future options. Given a scarcity of resources, one could not casually 
tear out Bessemer furnaces or cracking plants or assembly lines until 
their cost had been amortized. Once in place, therefore, this capital 
stock fixed the parameters within which future managers or integrators 
were confined. These groups of faceless decision-makers, controlling 
the levers of investment, formed the super-elite in all industrial 

In every Second Wave society, consequently, a parallel architecture of 
elites sprang up. And — with local variation — this hidden hierarchy of 
power was born again after every crisis or political upheaval. Names, 
slogans, party labels and candidates might change; revolutions might 
come and go. New faces might appear behind the big mahogany 
desks. But the basic architecture of power remained. 

Time and again during the past three hundred years, in one country 
after another, rebels and reformers have attempted to storm the walls 
of power, to build a new society based on social justice and political 
equality. Temporarily, such movements have seized the emotions of 
millions with promises of freedom. Revolutionists have even managed, 
now and then, to topple a regime. 

Yet each time the ultimate outcome was the same. Each time the 
rebels re-created, under then* own flag, a similar structure of sub- 
elites, elites, and super-elites. For this inte-grational structure and the 

technicians of power who ruled it were as necessary to Second Wave 
civilization as factories, fossil fuels, or nuclear families. Industralism 
and the full democracy it promised were, in fact, incompatible. 

Industrial nations could be forced, through revolutionary action or 
otherwise, to move back and forth across the spectrum from free 
market to centrally planned. They could go from capitalist to socialist 
and vice versa. But like the much-cited leopard, they could not change 
their spots. They could not function without a powerful hierarchy of 

Today, as the Third Wave of change begins to batter at this fortress of 
managerial power, the first fleeting cracks are nppearing in the power 
system. Demands for participation in in.-magement, for shared 
decision-making, for worker, consumer, and citizen control, and for 
anticipatory democracy 



are welling up in nation after nation. New ways of organizing along less 
hierarchical and more ad-hocratic lines are springing up in the most 
advanced industries. Pressures for decentralization of power intensify. 
And managers become more and more dependent upon information 
from below. Elites themselves, therefore, are becoming less 
permanent and secure. All these are merely early warnings — indicators 
of the coming upheaval in the political system. 

The Third Wave, already beginning to batter at these industrial 
structures, opens fantastic opportunities for social and political 
renovation. In the years just ahead startling new institutions will replace 
our unworkable, oppressive, and obsolete integrational structures. 

Before we turn to these new possibilities, we need to press our 
analysis of the dying system. We need to X-ray our obsolete political 
system to see how it fitted into the frame of Second Wave civilization, 
how it served the industrial order and its elites. Only then can we 
understand why it is no longer appropriate or tolerable. 


Nothing is more confusing to a Frenchman than the spectacle of an 
American presidential campaign: the hot-dog gulping, backslapping, 
and baby kissing, the coy refusal to cast hat in ring, the primaries, the 
conventions, followed by the manic frenzy of fund raising, whistle- 
stopping, speechmaking, television commercials — all in the name of 
democracy. By contrast, Americans find it hard to make sense of the 
way the French choose their leaders. Still less do they understand the 
tame British elections, the Dutch free-for-all with two dozen parties, the 
Australian preferential voting system, or the Japanese wheeling and 
dealing among factions. All these political systems seem frightfully 
different from one another. Even more incomprehensible are the one- 
party elections or pseudo-elections that take place in the U.S.S.R. and 
Eastern Europe. When it comes to politics, no two industrial nations 
look the same. 

Yet once we tear away our provincial blinders we suddenly discover 
that a set of powerful parallels lies beneath the surface differences. In 
fact, it is almost as if the political systems of all Second Wave nations 
were built from the same hidden blueprint. 

When Second Wave revolutionaries managed to topple First Wave 
elites in France, in the United States, in Russia, Japan, and other 
nations, they were faced with the need to write constitutions, set up 
new governments, and design almost from scratch new political 
institutions. In the excitement of creation they debated new ideas, new 
structures. Everywhere they fought over the nature of representation. 



should represent whom? Should representatives be instructed how to 
vote by the people — or use their own judgment? Should terms of office 
be long or short? What role should parties play? 

In each country a new political architecture emerged these conflicts 
and debates. A close look at these structures reveals that they are built 
on a combination of old Wave assumptions and newer ideas swept hi 
by the industrial age. 

After millennia of agriculture, it was hard for the founders of Second 
Wave political systems to imagine an economy based on labor, capital, 
e-ergy, and raw materials, rather than land. Land had always been at 
the very center of life r self. Not surprisingly, therefore, geography was 
deeply embedded in our various voting systems. Senators and 
congressmen in America — and their counterparts in Britain and many 
other industrial nations — are still elected not as representatives of 
lontno «r.~-i <-ias<? or o'-pima.tional, ethnic, sexual, or life-style 
grouping, but as representatives of the inhabitants of a particular piece 
of land: a geographical district. 

First Wave people were tvtvcallv immobile, and it was therefore natural 
for the architects of industrial-era political systems to assume that 
people would remain in one locality all their lives. Hence the nrwa A nce, 
even today, of residency requirements hi voting regulations. 

The pace of First Wave life was slow. Communications were so 
primitive that it might take a week for a message from the Continental 
Congress in Philadelphia to reach New York. A speech by Georse 
Washington took weeks or months to filter through to the hinterland. As 
late as 1865 it still took twelve days for London to learn that Lincoln 
had been assassinated. On the unspoken assumption that things 
moved slowly, representative bodies like Congress or the British 
Parliament were regarded as "deliberative" — having the tune and 
taking the time to think through their problems. 

Most First Wave people were illiterate and ignorant. Thus it was widely 
assumed that representatives, particularly if drawn from the educated 

classes, would inevitably make more intelligent decisions than the 
mass of voters. 

But even as they built these First Wave assumptions into our political 
institutions, the revolutionaries of the Second Wave also cast their 
eyes on the future. Thus the architecture 



they constructed reflected some of the latest technological notions of 
their time. 


The businessmen, intellectuals, and revolutionaries of the early 
industrial period were virtually mesmerized by machinery. They were 
fascinated by steam engines, clocks, looms, pumps, and pistons, and 
they constructed endless analogies based on the simple mechanistic 
technologies of their time. It was no accident that men like Benjamin 
Franklin and Thomas Jefferson were scientists and inventors as well 
as political revolutionaries. 

They grew up in the churning cultural wake of Newton's great 
discoveries. Newton had searched the heavens and concluded that the 
entire universe was a giant clockwork operating with exact mechanical 
regularity. La Mettrie, the French physician and philosopher, in 1748 
declared man himself to be a machine. Adam Smith later extended the 
analogy of the machine to economics, arguing that the economy is a 
system and that systems "in many respects resemble machines." 

James Madison, in describing the debates that led to the United States 
Constitution, spoke of the need to "remodel" the "system," to change 
the "structure" of political power, and to choose officials through 
"successive filtrations." The Constitution itself was filled with "checks 
and balances" like the inner works of a giant clock. Jefferson spoke of 
the "machinery of government." 

American political thinking continued to reverberate with the sound of 
flywheels, chains, gears, checks and balances. Thus Martin Van Buren 
invented the "political machine" and eventually New York City had its 
Tweed machine, Tennessee its Crump machine, New Jersey its Hague 
machine. Generations of American politicians, right down to the 
present, prepared political "blueprints," "engineered elections," "steam- 
rollered" or "railroaded" bills through Congress and the state 
legislatures. In the nineteenth century in Britain, 'Lord Cromer 
conceived of an imperial government that would "ensure the 
harmonious working of the different parts of the machine." 

Nor was this mechanistic mentality a product of capitalism. Lenin, for 
example, described that state as "nothing 



more than a machine used by the capitalists to suppress the workers." 
Trotsky spoke of "all the wheels and screws of the bourgeois social 
mechanism" and went on to describe the function of a revolutionary 
party in similarly mechanical phrases. Terming it a powerful 
"apparatus," he pointed out that "as with any mechanism this is in itself 
static ... the movement of the masses has ... to overcome dead 
inertia. . . . Thus, the living force of steam has to overcome the inertia 
of the machine before it can set the flywheel in motion." 

Drenched in such mechanistic thinking, imbued with an almost blind 
faith in the power and efficiency of machines, the revolutionary 
founders of Second Wave societies, whether capitalist or socialist, not 
surprisingly invented political institutions that shared many of the 
characteristics of early industrial machines. 


The structures they hammered and bolted together were based on the 
elemental notion of representation. And in every country they made 
use of certain standard parts. These components came out of what 
might be called, only half facetiously, a universal represento-kit 

The components were: 

1. Individuals armed with the vote 

2. Parties for collecting votes 

3. Candidates who, by winning votes, were instantly transformed into 
"representatives" of the voters 

4. Legislatures (parliaments, diets, congresses, bunde-stags, or 
assemblies) in which, by voting, representatives manufactured laws 

5. Executives (presidents, prime ministers, party secretaries) who fed 
raw material into the lawmaking machine in the form of policies, and 
then enforced the resulting laws 

Votes were the "atom" of this Newtonian mechanism. Votes were 
aggregated by parties, which served as the "manifold" of the system. 
They gathered votes from many sources and fed them into the 
electoral adding machine, which blended them in proportion to party 
strength or mixture, producing as 



its output the "will of the people" — the basic fuel that supposedly 
powered the machinery of government. 

The parts of this kit were combined and manipulated in different ways 
in different places. In some places everyone over the age of twenty- 
one was permitted to vote; elsewhere only white males were 
enfranchised; in one country the entire process was merely a facade 

for control by a dictator; in another the elected officials actually wielded 
considerable power. Here there were two parties, there a multiplicity of 
parties, elsewhere only one. Nevertheless, the historical pattern is 
clear. However the parts might be modified or configured, this same 
basic kit was used in constructing the formal political machinery of all 
industrial nations. 

Even though Communists frequently attacked "bourgeois democracy" 
and ' A arliamentarianism" as a mask for privilege, arguing that the 
mechanisms were usually manipulated by the capitalist class for its 
own private gain, all socialist industrial nations installed similar 
representational machines as soon as possible. 

While holding forth a promise of "direct democracy" in some far-off 
post-representational era, they relied heavily in the meantime on 
"socialist representative institutions." The Hungarian Communist Ott6 
Bihari, in a study of these institutions, writes, "in the course of election 
the will of the working people makes its influence felt hi the 
governmental organs called to life by voting.” The editor of Pravda, V. 

G. Afanasyev, in his book The Scientific Management of Society 
defines "democratic centralism" as including "the sovereign power of 
the working people ... the election of governing bodies and leaders and 
their accountability to the people." 

Just as the factory came to symbolize the entire industrial techno- 
sphere, representative government (no matter how denatured) became 
the status symbol of every "advanced" nation. Indeed, even many non- 
industrial nations — under pressure from colonizers or through blind 
imitation — rushed to install the same formal mechanisms and used the 
same universal represento-kit. 

Nor were these "democracy machines" restricted to the national level. 
They were installed at state, provincial, and local levels as well, right 
down to the town or village council. To- 


day in the United States alone there are some five-hundred thousand 
elected public officials and 25,869 local governmental units in 
metropolitan areas, each with its own elections, representative bodies, 
and election procedures. 

Thousands of these representational machines are creaking and 
grinding away hi nonmetropolitan regions, and tens of thousands more 
around the world. In Swiss cantons and French departments, in the 
countries of Britain and the provinces of Canada, in the voivodships of 
Poland and the republics of the Soviet Union, in Singapore and Haifa, 
Osaka and Oslo, candidates run for office and are magically 
transmuted into "representatives." It is safe to say that more than one- 
hundred thousand of these machines are now manufacturing laws, 
decrees, regulations, and rules in Second Wave countries alone.* 

In theory, just as each human being and each vote was a discrete, 
atomic unit, each of these political units — national, provincial, and 
local — was also regarded as discrete and atomic. Each had its own 
carefully defined jurisdiction, its own powers, its own rights and duties. 

The units were wired together in hierarchical arrangement, from top to 
bottom, from nation to state or region or local authority. But as 
industrialism matured and the economy grew increasingly integrated, 
decisions taken by each of these political units touched off effects 
outside its own jurisdiction, thereby causing other political bodies to act 
in response. 

A decision by the Diet regarding the Japanese textile industry could 
influence employment in North Carolina and welfare services in 
Chicago. A congressional vote to put quotas on foreign automobiles 
could make additional work for local governments in Nagoya or Turin. 
Thus while at one time politicians could make a decision without 
upsetting conditions outside their own neatly defined jurisdiction, this 
became less and less possible. 

By the mid-twentieth century, tens of thousands of ostensi- 

* Apart from governments as such, virtually all the political parties of 
industrialism, from extreme right to extreme left, routinely went through 
the traditional motions of choosing their own leaders by vote. Even 
contests for precinct-level or local cell leadership typically required 
some form of election, if only for the ratification of choices made from 
above. And in many countries the ritual of election became a standard 
part of the life of all sorts of other organizations, from trade unions and 
churches to Cub Scout packs. Voting became part of the industrial way 
of life. 


bly sovereign or independent political authorities, stretching around the 
planet, were connected to one another through the circuits of the 
economy, through vastly increased travel, migration, and 
communication, so that they continually activated and excited one 

The thousands of representational mechanisms built out of 
components of the represento-kit thus increasingly came to form a 
single invisible supermachine: a global law factory. Now it remains only 
for us to see how the levers and control wheels of this global system 
were manipulated — and by whom. 


Born of the liberating dreams of Second Wave revolutionaries, 
representative government was a stunning advance over earlier power 
systems, a technological triumph more striking in its own way than the 
steam engine or the airplane. 

Representative government made possible orderly succession without 
hereditary dynasty. It opened feedback channels between top and 
bottom in society. It provided an arena in which the differences among 
various groups could be reconciled peacefully. 

Tied to majority rule and the idea of one-man/one-vote, it helped the 
poor and weak to squeeze benefits from the technicians of power who 
ran the integrational engines of society. For these reasons, the spread 
of representative government was, on the whole, a humanizing 
breakthrough in history. 

Yet from the very beginning it fell far short of its promise. By no stretch 
of the imagination was it ever controlled by the people, however 
defined. Nowhere did it actually change the underlying structure of 
power in industrial nations — the structure of sub-elites, elites, and 
super-elites. Indeed, far from weakening control by the managerial 
elites, the formal machinery of representation became one of the key 
means of integration by which they maintained themselves in power. 

Thus elections, quite apart from who won them, performed a powerful 
cultural function for the elites. To the degree that -everyone had a right 
to vote, elections fostered the illusion of equality. Voting provided a 
mass ritual of reassurance, conveying to the people the idea that 
choices were being made systematically, with machine-like regularity, 
and hence, by, implication, rationally. Elections symbolically assured 



that they were still in command — that they could, in theory at least, dis- 
elect as well as elect leaders. In both capitalist and socialist countries, 
these ritual reassurances often proved more important than the actual 
outcomes of many elections. 

Integrational elites programmed the political machinery differently in 
each place, controlling the number of parties or manipulating voting 
eligibility. Yet the electoral ritual — some might say farce— was 
employed everywhere. The fact that Soviet and Eastern European 
elections routinely produced magical majorities of 99 to 100 percent 
suggested that the need for reassurance remained at least as strong in 
the centrally planned societies as in the "free world." Elections took the 
steam out of protests from below. 

Furthermore, despite the efforts of democratic reformers and radicals, 
the integrational elites retained virtually permanent control of the 
systems of representative government. Many theories have been 
advanced to explain why. Most, however, overlook the mechanical 
nature of the system. 

If we look at Second Wave political systems with the eyes of an 
engineer rather than a political scientist, we suddenly are struck by a 
key fact that generally goes unobserved. 

Industrial engineers routinely distinguish between two fundamentally 
different classes of machine: those that function intermittently, 
otherwise known as "batch-processing" machines, and those that 
function uninterruptedly, called "continuous-flow" machines. An 

example of the first is the commonplace punch press. The worker 
brings a batch of metal plates and feeds them into the machine, one or 
a few at a time, to stamp them into desired shapes. When the batch is 
finished the machine stops until a new batch is brought. An example of 
the second is the oil refinery which, once started up, never stops 
running. Twenty-four hours a day, oil flows through its pipes and tubes 
and chambers. 

If we look at the global law factory, with its intermittent voting, we find 
ourselves face to face with a classical batch processor. The public is 
allowed to choose between candidates at stipulated times, after which 
the formal "democracy machine" is switched off again. 

Contrast this with the continuous flow of influence from various 
organized interests, pressure groups, and power peddlers. Swarms of 
lobbyists from corporations and from government agencies, 
departments, and ministries testify before committees, serve on blue- 
ribbon panels, attend the same receptions and banquets, toast each 
other with cocktails in 



Washington or vodka in Moscow, carry information and influence back 
and forth, and thus affect the decision-making process on a round-the- 
clock basis. 

The elites, in short, created a powerful continuous-flow machine to 
operate alongside (and often at cross purposes with) the democratic 
batch processor. Only when we see these two machines side by side 
can we begin to understand how state power was really exercised in 
the global law factory. 

So long as they played the representational game, people had at best 
only intermittent opportunities, through voting, to feed back their 
approval or disapproval of the government and its actions. The 
technicians of power, by contrast, influenced those actions 

Finally, an even more potent tool for social control was engineered into 
the very principle of representation. For the mere selection of some 
people to represent others created new members of the elite. 

When workers, for example, first fought for the right to organize unions, 
they were harassed, prosecuted for conspiracy, followed by company 
spies, or beaten up by police and goon squads. They were outsiders, 
unrepresented or inadequately represented in the system. 

Once unions established themselves, they gave rise to a new group of 
integrators — the labor establishment — whose members, rather than 
simply representing the workers, mediated between them and the 
elites in business and government. The George Meanys and Georges 
Seguys of the world, despite then* rhetoric, became themselves key 
members of the integrational elite. The fake union leaders in the 

U.S.S.R. and Eastern Europe never were anything but technicians of 

In theory, the need to stand for re-election guaranteed that 
representatives would stay honest and would continue to speak for 
those they represented. Nowhere, however, did this prevent the 
absorption of representatives into the architecture of power. 
Everywhere the gap widened between the representative and the 

Representative government — what we have been taught to call 
democracy — was, in short, an industrial technology for assuring 
inequality. Representative government was pseudore-presentative. 

What we see, then, glancing backward for a moment of summary, is a 
civilization heavily dependent on fossil fuels, 



factory production, the nuclear family, the corporation, mass education, 
and the mass media, all based on a widening cleavage between 
production and consumption — and all managed by a set of elites 
whose task it was to integrate the whole. 

In this system, representative government was the political equivalent 
of the factory. Indeed, it was a factory for the manufacture of collective 
integrational decisions. Like most factories, it was managed from 
above. And like most factories, it is now increasingly obsolete, a victim 
of the advancing Third Wave. 

If Second Wave political structures are increasingly out of date, unable 
to cope with today's complexities — part of the trouble, as we shall see, 
lies in another crucial Second Wave institution: the nation-state. 




Abaco is an island. It has a population of sixty-five hundred and forms 
part of the Bahamas lying off the coast of Florida. Several years ago a 
group of American businessmen, arms merchants, free enterprise 
ideologues, a Black intelligence agent, and a member of the British 
House of Lords determined that it was time for Abaco to declare its 

Their plan was to take over the island and break it away from the 
Bahainian government by promising each of the native residents of the 
island a free acre of land after the revolution. (This would have left over 
a quarter of a million acres for use by the real estate developers and 
investors behind the project.) The ultimate dream was the 

establishment on Abaco of a taxless Utopia to which wealthy 
businessmen, dreading the Socialist apocalypse, might flee. 

Alas for free enterprise, the native Abaconians showed little inclination 
to throw off their chains, and the proposed new nation was stillborn. 

Nevertheless, in a world in which nationalist movements battle for 
power, and in which some 152 states claim membership in that trade 
association of nations, the U.N., such parodic gestures serve a useful 
purpose. They force us to challenge the Very notion of nationhood. 

Could the sixty-five hundred people of Abaco, whether financed by 
oddball businessmen or not, constitute a nation? If Singapore with its 
2.3 million people is a nation, why not New York City with its 8 million? 
If Brooklyn had jet bombers would it be a nation? Absurd as they 
sound, such questions will take on new significance as the Third Wave 




at the very foundations of Second Wave civilization. For one of those 
foundations was, and is, the nation-state. 

Until we cut through the foggy rhetoric that surrounds the issue of 
nationalism, we cannot make sense of the headlines and we cannot 
understand the conflict between First and Second Wave civilizations as 
the Third Wave strikes them both. 


Before the Second Wave began rolling across Europe most regions of 
the world were not yet consolidated into nations but were organized, 
rather, into a mishmash of tribes, clans, duchies, principalities, 
kingdoms, and other more or less local units. "Kings and princes," write 
the political scientist S. E. Finer, "held powers hi bits and blobs." 
Borders were ill-defined, governmental rights fuzzy. The power of the 
state was not yet standardized. In one village, Professor Finer tells us, 
it amounted only to the right to collect tolls on a windmill, in another to 
tax the peasants, elsewhere to appoint an abbot. An individual with 
property in several different regions might owe allegiance to several 
lords. Even the greatest of emperors typically ruled over a patchwork 
of tiny locally-governed communities. Political control was not yet 
uniform. Voltaire summed it all up: In traveling across Europe, he 
complained, he had to change laws as frequently as horses. 

There was more to this quip than met the eye, of course, for the 
frequent need to change horses reflected the primitive level of 
transport and communications — which, hi turn, reduced the distance 
over which even the most powerful monarch could impose effective 
control. The farther from the capital, the weaker the authority of the 

Yet without political integration, economic integration was impossible. 
Costly new Second Wave technologies could only be amortized if they 
produced goods for larger-than-local markets. But how could 
businessmen buy and sell over a large territory if, outside their own 
communities, they ran into a maze of different duties, taxes, labor 
regulations, and currencies? For the new technologies to pay off, local 
economies had to be consolidated into a single national economy. This 
meant a national division of labor and a national market for 
commodities and capital. All this, in turn, required national political 
consolidation as well. 



Put simply, a Second Wave political unit was needed to match the 
growth of Second Wave economic units. 

Not surprisingly, as Second Wave societies began to build national 
economies, a basic shift in public consciousness became evident. The 
small-scale local production in First Wave societies had bred a race of 
highly provincial people — most of whom concerned themselves 
exclusively with then: own neighborhoods or villages. Only a tiny 
handful — a few nobles and churchmen, a scattering of merchants and 
a social fringe of artists, scholars, and mercenaries — had interests 
beyond the village. 

The Second Wave swiftly multiplied the number of people with a stake 
in the larger world. With steam- and coal-based technologies, and later 
with the advent of electricity, it became possible for a manufacturer of 
clothing in Frankfurt, watches in Geneva, or textiles in Manchester to 
produce far more units than the local market could absorb. He also 
needed raw materials from afar. The factory worker, too, was affected 
by financial events occurring thousands of miles away: jobs depended 
on distant markets. 

Bit by bit, therefore, psychological horizons expanded. The new mass 
media increased the amount of information and imagery from far away. 
Under the impact of these changes, localism faded. National 
consciousness stirred. 

Starting with the American and French revolutions and continuing 
through the nineteenth century, a frenzy of nationalism swept across 
the industrializing parts of the world. Germany's three hundred and fifty 
petty, diverse, quarreling mini-states needed to be combined into a 
single national market — das Vaterland. Italy — broken into pieces and 
ruled variously by the House of Savoy, the Vatican, the Austrian 
Hapsburgs, and the Spanish Bourbons — had to be united. Hungarians, 
Serbs, Croats, Frenchmen, and others all suddenly developed mystical 
affinities for then* fellows. Poets exalted the national spirit. Historians 
discovered long-lost heroes, literature, and folklore. Composers wrote 
hymns to nationhood. All at precisely the moment when 
industrialization made it necessary. 

Once we understand the industrial need for integration, the meaning of 
the national state becomes clear. Nations are not "spiritual unities" as 

Spengler termed them, or '‘mental communities" or "social souls." Nor 
is a nation "a rich heritage of memories," to use Kenan's phrase, or a 
"shared image of the future," as Ortega insisted. 


What we call the modern nation is a Second Wave phenomenon: a 
single integrated political authority superimposed on or fused with a 
single integrated economy. A ragbag collection of locally self-sufficient, 
sparsely connected economies cannot, and does not, give rise to a 
nation. Nor is a tightly unified political system a modern nation if it sits 
atop a loose conglomeration of local economies. It was the welding of 
the two, a unified political system and a unified economy, that made 
the modern nation. 

Nationalist uprisings triggered by the industrial revolution in the United 
States, in France, in Germany and the rest of Europe, can be seen as 
efforts to bring the level of political integration up to the fast-rising level 
of economic integration that accompanied the Second Wave. And it 
was these efforts, not poetry or mystical influences, that led to the 
division of the world into distinct national units. 


As each government sought to extend its market and its political 
authority, it came up against outer limits — language differences, 
cultural, social, geographic, and strategic barriers. The available 
transport, communication, and energy supplies, the productivity of its 
technology, all set limits on how large an area could be effectively 
ruled by a single political structure. The sophistication of accounting 
procedures, budgetary controls, and management techniques also 
determined how far political integration could reach. 

Within these limits, the integrational elites, corporate and governmental 
alike, fought for expansion. The broader the territory under their control 
and the bigger the economic market area, the greater their wealth and 
power became. As each nation stretched its economic and political 
frontiers to the utmost, it ran up not merely against these inherent limits 
but also against rival nations. 

To break out of these confines the integrational elites used advanced 
technology. They hurled themselves, for example, into the "space 
race" of the nineteenth century — the building of railroads. 

In September 1825 a rail line was established that linked Stockton to 
Darlington in Britain. In May 1835, on the continent, Brussels was tied 
to Malines. That September in Bavaria the Nuremberg-Furth line was 
laid. Next were Paris 



and St. Germain. Far to the east, in April 1838, Tsarkoe Selo was 
connected to St. Petersburg. For the next three decades or more, 
railroad workers stitched one region to another. 

The French historian Charles Moraze" explains: "The countries which 
were already almost united in 1830 were consolidated by the coming of 
the railway . . . those still unprepared saw new bands of steel . . . 
tightening around them. ... It was as if every possible nation was 
hastening to proclaim its right to exist before the railways were built, so 
that it might be acknowledged as a nation by the transport system 
which defined the political boundaries of Europe for over a century." 

In the United States the government awarded vast land grants to the 
private railroad companies, inspired, as historian Brace Mazlish has 
written, by "the conviction that transcontinental roads would strengthen 
the ties of union between the Atlantic and Pacific coasts." Hammering 
hi the golden spike that completed the first transcontinental rail line 
opened the door to a truly national market — integrated on a continental 
scale. And it extended the actual, as distinct from nominal, control of 
the national government. Washington could now move troops quickly 
all across the continent to enforce its authority. 

What one saw, therefore, hi one country after another, was the rise of 
this powerful new entity — the nation. In this way the world map came to 
be divided into a set of neat, nonov-crlapping patches of red, pink, 
orange, yellow, or green, and the nation-state system became one of 
the key structures of Second Wave civilization. 

Beneath the nation lay the familiar imperative of industri-.alism: the 
drive toward integration. 

But the drive for integration did not end at the borders of each nation- 
state. For all its strengths, industrial civilization had to be fed from 
without. It could not survive unless it integrated the rest of the world 
into the money system and controlled that system for its own benefit. 

How it did so is crucial to any understanding of the world the Third 
Wave will create. 


No civilization spreads without conflict. Second Wave civilization soon 
launched a massive attack on the First Wave world, triumphed, and 
imposed its will on millions, ultimately billions, of human beings. 

Long before the Second Wave, of course, from the sixteenth century 
on, European rulers had already begun to build extensive colonial 
empires. Spanish priests and conquistadors, French trappers, British, 
Dutch, and Portuguese or Italian adventurers fanned out across the 
globe, enslaving or decimating whole populations, claiming control of 
vast lands, and sending tribute home to then- monarchs. 

Compared with what was to follow, however, all this was insignificant. 

For the treasure these early adventurers and conquerors sent home 
was, in effect, private booty. It financed wars and personal opulence — 
whiter palaces, colorful pageantry, a leisurely workless life-style for the 
court. But it had little to do with the still basically self-sufficient 
economy of the colonizing country. 

Largely outside the money system and the market economy, the serfs 
who scraped a bare living from the sunbaked soil of Spain or the misty 
heaths of England had little or nothing to export abroad. They scarcely 
grew enough for local consumption. Nor did they depend on raw 
materials stolen or purchased hi other countries. For them life went on, 
one way or another. The fruits of overseas conquest enriched the 
ruling class and the towns rather than the mass of ordinary people who 
lived as peasants. In this sense, First Wave 



imperialism was still petty — not yet integrated into the economy. 

The Second Wave transformed this relatively small-scale pilferage into 
big business. It transformed Petty Imperialism into Grand Imperialism. 

Here was a new imperialism aimed not at bringing back a few 
trunkloads of gold or emeralds, spices and silks. Here was an 
imperialism that ultimately brought back shipload after shipload of 
nitrates, cotton, palm oil, tin, rubber, bauxite, and tungsten. Here was 
an imperialism that dug copper mines in the Congo and planted oil rigs 
hi Arabia. Here was an imperialism that sucked in raw materials from 
the colonies, processed them, and very often spewed the finished 
manufactured goods back into the colonies at a huge profit. Here, in 
short, was imperialism no longer peripheral but so integrated into the 
basic economic structure of the industrial nation that the jobs of 
millions of ordinary workers came to depend on it 

And not just jobs. In addition to new raw materials, Europe also 
needed increasing amounts of food. As Second Wave nations turned 
to manufacturing, transferring rural labor into the factories, they were 
forced to import more of their foodstuffs from abroad — beef, mutton, 
grain, coffee, tea, and sugar from India, from China, from Africa, from 
the West Indies and Central America. 

In turn, as mass manufacturing grew, the new industrial elites needed 
bigger markets and fresh outlets for investment. In the 1880's and 
1890's European statesmen were unabashedly open about their 
objectives. "Empire is commerce,'* proclaimed the British politician 
Joseph Chamberlain. The French premier Jules Ferry was even more 
explicit: What France needed, he declared, were "outlets for our 
industries, exports, and capital." Jolted by cycles of boom and bust, 
faced with chronic unemployment, European leaders were for 
generations obsessed by the fear that if colonial expansion stopped, 
unemployment would lead to armed revolution at home. 

The roots of Grand Imperialism were, however, more than economic. 
Strategic considerations, religious fervor, idealism, and adventure all 
played a part, as did racism, with its implicit assumption of white or 
European superiority. Many saw imperial conquest as a divine 
responsibility. Kipling's phrase, the "White Man's burden," summed up 
the European's missionary zeal to spread Christianity and 
"civilization" — 


meaning, of course, Second Wave civilization. For the colonizers 
regarded First Wave civilizations, no matter how refined and complex, 
as backward and underdeveloped. Rural people, especially if they 
happened to wear dark skins, were supposedly childlike. They were 
"tricky and dishonest." They were "shiftless." They did not "value life." 

Such attitudes made it easier for the Second Wave forces to justify the 
annihilation of those who stood in their path. 

In The Social History of the Machine Gun, John Ellis shows how this 
new, fantastically deadly weapon, perfected in the nineteenth century, 
was at first systematically employed against "native" populations and 
not against white Europeans, since it was considered unsportsmanlike 
to kill an equal with it. Shooting colonials, however, was thought to be 
more like a hunt than a war, so other standards applied. "Mowing down 
Matabeles, Dervishes or Tibetans," writes Ellis, "was regarded more as 
a rather risky kind of 'shoot' than a true military operation." 

At Omdurman, across the Nile from Khartoum, this superior technology 
was displayed with withering effect in 1898 when Dervish warriors led 
by the Mahdi were defeated by British troops armed with six Maxim 
machine guns. An eyewitness wrote: "It was the last day of Mahdism 
and the greatest. ... It was not a battle but an execution." In that one 
engagement twenty-eight British died, leaving behind eleven thousand 
Dervish dead — 392 colonial casualities for every Englishman. Writes 
Ellis: "It became another example of the triumph of the British spirit, 
and the general superiority of the white man." 

Behind the racist attitudes and the religious and other justifications as 
the British, French, Germans. Dutch, and others spread around the 
world, stood a single hard reality. Second Wave civilization could not 
exist in isolation. It desperately needed the hidden subsidy of cheap 
resources from the outside. Above all, it needed a single integrated 
world market through which to siphon those subsidies. 


The thrust to create this integrated world market was based on the 
idea, best expressed by David Ricardo, that the division of labor ought 
to be applied to nations as well as to factory workers. In a classical 
passage he pointed out that if 



Britain specialized in the manufacture of textiles and Portugal in 
making wine, both countries would gain. Each would be doing what it 
did best. Thus the "international division of tabor," assigning 
specialized roles to different nations, would enrich everyone. 

This belief hardened into dogma in the generations that followed and 
still prevails today, although its implications often go unnoticed. For just 

as the division of labor in any economy created a powerful need for 
integration and thereby gave rise to an integrational elite, so the 
international division of labor required integration on a global scale and 
gave rise to a global elite — a small group of Second Wave nations 
which, for all practical purposes, took turns dominating large parts of 
the rest of the world. 

The success of the drive to create a single integrated world market can 
be measured in the fantastic growth of world trade once the Second 
Wave passed through Europe. Between 1750 and 1914 the value of 
world trade is estimated to have multiplied more than fiftyfold, rising 
from 700 million dollars to almost 40 billion dollars. If Ricardo had been 
right, the advantages of this global trade should have accrued more or 
less evenly to all sides. In fact, the self-serving belief that specialization 
would benefit everyone was based on a fantasy of fair competition. 

It presupposed a completely efficient use of labor and resources. It 
presupposed deals uncontaminated by threats of political or military 
force. It presupposed armVIength transactions by more or less evenly 
matched bargainers. The theory, in short, overlooked nothing — except 
real life. 

In reality, negotiations between Second Wave merchants and First 
Wave people over sugar, copper, cocoa, or other resources were often 
totally lopsided. On one side of the table sat money-shrewd European 
or American traders backed by huge companies, extensive banking 
networks, powerful technologies, and strong national governments. On 
the other one might find a local lord or tribal chieftain whose people 
had scarcely entered the money system and whose economy was 
based on small-scale agriculture or village crafts. On one side sat the 
agents of a thrusting, alien, mechanically advanced civilization, 
convinced of its own superiority and ready to use bayonets or machine 
guns to prove it. On the other sat representatives of small prenational 
tribes or principalities, armed with arrows and spears. 

Often local rulers or entrepreneurs were simply bought off 


by the Westerners, offered bribes or personal gain in return for 
sweating the native labor force, putting down resistance, or rewriting 
local laws in favor of the outsiders. Once conquering a colony, the 
imperial power often set preferential raw-material prices for its own 
businessmen and erected stiff barriers to prevent the traders of rival 
nations from bidding prices up. 

Under such circumstances, it was hardly surprising that the industrial 
world was able to obtain raw materials or energy resources at less 
than fair-market prices. 

Beyond this, prices were often further depressed in the favor of the 
buyers by what might be termed "The Law of the First Price." Many raw 
materials needed by Second Wave nations were virtually valueless to 
the First Wave populations who had them. African peasants had no 
need for chromium. Arab sheiks had no use for the black gold that lay 
under their desert sands. 

Where no previous history of trade existed for a given commodity, the 
price set in the first transaction was crucial. And this price was often 
based less on such economic factors as cost, profit, or competition 
than on relative military and political strength. Typically set in the 
absence of active competition, almost any price was acceptable to 
ajord or tribal chief who regarded his local resources as valueless and 
found himself facing a regiment of troops with Galling guns. And this 
First Price, once established at a low level, depressed all subsequent 

As soon as this raw material was shipped back to the industrial nations 
and incorporated in final products, the low initial price was, for all 
intents, frozen in place.* Eventually, as a world price was gradually 
established for each commodity, all industrial nations benefited from 
the fact that the First Price had been set at an "a-competitive" low 
level. For many different reasons, therefore, despite much imperialist 
rhetoric about the virtues of free trade and enterprise, the Second 

* Example: Suppose Company A bought a raw material from Colonia 
for one dollar a pound, then used it to manufacture widgets selling for 
two dollars each. Any other company seeking to enter the widget 
market would strive to keep its own raw-material cost at, or below, that 
of Company A. Unless it had some technological or other edge, it could 
not afford to pay significantly more for its raw material and still sell 
widgets at a competitive price. Thus the initial price set for the raw 
material, even if arrived at under the shadow of bayonets, became the 
base for all subsequent negotiation. 



Wave nations profited greatly from what was euphemistically called 
"imperfect competition." 

Rhetoric and Ricardo aside, the benefits of expanding trade were not 
evenly shared. They flowed mainly from the First Wave world to the 


To facilitate this flow, the industrial powers worked hard to expand and 
integrate the world market As trade passed beyond national 
boundaries each national market became part of a larger set of 
interconnected regional or continental markets and, finally, part of the 
single, unified exchange system envisioned by the integrational elites 
who ran Second Wave civilization. A single web of money was woven 
around the world. 

Treating the rest of the world as its gas pump, garden, mine, quarry, 
and cheap labor supply, the Second Wave world wrought deep 
changes in the social life of the earth's non-industrial populations. 
Cultures that had subsisted for thousands of years in a self-sufficient 
manner, producing their own food supplies, were sucked willy-nilly into 
the world trade system and compelled to trade or perish. Suddenly the 

living standards of Bolivians or Malayans were tied to the requirements 
of industrial economies half a planet away, as tin mines and rubber 
plantations sprang up to feed the voracious industrial maw. 

The innocent household product margarine provides a dramatic case 
in point. Margarine was originally manufactured in Europe out of local 
materials. It grew so popular, however, that these materials proved 
insufficient. In 1907 researchers discovered that margarine could be 
made out of coconut and palm-kernel oil. The result of this European 
discovery was an upheaval hi the life-style of West Africans. 

"In the main areas of West Africa," writes Magnus Pyke, former 
president of the British Institute of Food Science and Technology, 
"where palm oil was traditionally produced, the land was owned by the 
community as a whole." Complex local customs and rules governed 
the use of the palm trees. Sometimes a man who had planted a tree 
was entitled to its product for the rest of his life. In some places women 
had special rights. According to Pyke, the Western businessmen who 
organized "the large-scale production of palm oil for the 



manufacture of margarine as a 'convenience* food for the industrial 
citizens of Europe and America destroyed the fragile and complex 
social system of the non-industrial Africans." Huge plantations were set 
up in the Belgian Congo, in Nigeria, the Cameroons, and the Gold 
Coast. The West got its margarine. And Africans became semi-slaves 
on huge plantations. 

Rubber offers another example. After the turn of the century when 
automobile production in the United States created a sudden heavy 
demand for rubber for tires and inner tubes, traders, in collusion with 
local authorities, enslaved Amazonian Indians to produce it. Roger 
Casement, the British consul in Rio de Janeiro, reported that the 
production of four thousand tons of Putumayo rubber between 1900 
and 1911 resulted in the death of thirty thousand Indians. 

It can be argued that these were "excesses" and were not typical of 
Grand Imperialism. Certainly the colonial powers were not unrelievedly 
cruel or evil. In places they did build schools and rudimentary health 
facilities for their subject populations. They improved sanitation and 
water supplies. They no doubt raised the living standard for some. 

Nor would it be fair to romanticize precolonial societies or to blame the 
poverty of today's non-industrial populations exclusively on 
imperialism. Climate, local corruption and tyranny, ignorance, and 
xenophobia all contributed. There was plenty of misery and oppression 
to go around long before the Europeans ever arrived. 

Nevertheless, once torn out of self-sufficiency and compelled to 
produce for money and exchange, once encouraged or forced to 
reorganize their social structure around mining, for example, or 
plantation fanning, First Wave populations were plunged into economic 
dependence on a marketplace they could scarcely influence. Often 

their leaders were bribed, their cultures ridiculed, their languages 
suppressed. Moreover, the colonial powers hammered a deep sense 
of psychological inferiority into the conquered people that stands even 
today as an obstacle to economic and social development. 

In the Second Wave world, however, Grand Imperialism paid off 
handsomely. As the economic historian William Woodruff put it: "It was 
the exploitation of these territories and the growing trade done with 
them that obtained for the European family wealth on a scale never 
seen before." Built deep into the very structure of the Second Wave 


feeding its ravenous need for resources, imperialism marched across 
the planet. 

In 1492 when Columbus first set foot in the New World, Europeans 
controlled only 9 percent of the globe. By 1801 they ruled a third. By 
1880, two thirds. And by 1935 Europeans politically controlled 85 
percent of the land surface of the earth and 70 percent of its 
population. Like Second Wave society itself, the world was divided into 
integrators and inte-gratees. 


Not all integrators were equal, however. The Second Wave nations 
waged an increasingly bloody battle among themselves for control of 
the emerging world economic system. English and French dominance 
was challenged in World War I by rising German industrial might. The 
war's destruction, the devastating cycle of inflation and depression that 
followed it, the revolution in Russia, all shook the industrial world 

These upheavals brought on a drastic slowdown in the rate of growth 
of world trade, and, even though more countries were sucked into the 
trading system, the actual volume of goods traded internationally 
declined. World War II further slowed extension of the integrated world 

By the end of World War II, Western Europe lay in smoking ruins. 
Germany had been reduced to a lunar landscape. The Soviet Union 
had suffered indescribable physical and human damage. Japan's 
industry was shattered. Of the major industrial powers only the United 
States found itself unharmed economically. By 1946-1950 the global 
economy stood in such disarray that foreign trade was at its lowest 
level since 1913. 

Moreover, the very weakness of the war-stricken European powers 
encouraged one colony after another to demand political 
independence. Gandhi, Ho Chi Minh, Jomo Kenyatta, and other anti- 
colonialists stepped up their campaigns to oust the, colonizers. 

Even before the wartime guns stopped firing, therefore, it was apparent 
that the entire world industrial economy would have to be reconstituted 
on a new basis after the war. 

Two nations took upon themselves the task of reorganizing 


and reintegrating the Second Wave system: the United States and the 
Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. 

The United States until then had played a limited part in the Grand 
Imperial campaign. In opening its own frontier it had decimated the 
Native Americans and cordoned them off in reservations. In Mexico, 
Cuba, and Puerto Rico, and the Philippines, Americans imitated the 
imperial tactics of the British, the French, or the Germans. In Latin 
America throughout the early decades of this century U.S. "dollar 
diplomacy" helped United Fruit and other corporations guarantee low 
prices for sugar, bananas, coffee, copper, and other goods. 
Nevertheless, compared with the Europeans, the United States was a 
junior partner in the Grand Imperial crusade. 

After World War II, by contrast, the United States stood as the chief 
creditor nation in the world. It had the most advanced technology, the 
most stable political structure — and an irresistible opportunity to move 
into the power vacuum left behind by its shattered competitors as they 
were forced to withdraw from the colonies. 

As early as 1941 U.S. financial strategists had begun to plan for a 
postwar reintegration of the world economy along lines more favorable 
to the United States. At the Bretton Woods Conference in 1944, held 
under U.S. leadership, forty-four nations agreed to set up two key 
integrative structures — the International Monetary Fund and the World 

The IMF compelled its member nations to peg then* currency to the 
American dollar or to gold — most of which was held by the United 
States. (By 1948, the United States possessed 72 percent of the whole 
world's gold reserves.) The IMF thus fixed the basic relationships of the 
major world currencies. 

The World Bank, meanwhile, at first established to provide postwar 
reconstruction funds to European nations, gradually began providing 
loans to the non-industrial countries, too. These were often for the 
purpose of building roads, harbors, ports, and other "infra-structure 
items" to facilitate the movement of raw materials and agricultural 
exports to the Second Wave nations. 

Soon a third component was added to the system: the General 
Agreement on Tariffs and Trade — GATT for short. This agreement, 
again promoted originally by the United States, set out to liberalize 
trade, which had the effect of 


making it difficult for the poorer, less technologically advanced 
countries to protect then* tiny fledgling industries. 

The three structures were wired together by a rule that prohibited the 
World Bank from making loans to any country that refused to join the 
IMF or to abide by the GATT. 

This system made it difficult for debtors of the United States to reduce 
then* obligations through currency or tariff manipulation. It 
strengthened the competitiveness of U.S. industry in world markets. 
And it gave the industrial powers, and especially the United States, a 
strong influence on economic planning in many First Wave countries, 
even after they had attained political independence. 

These three interconnected agencies formed a single inte-grative 
structure for world trade. And from 1944 to the early 1970's, the United 
States basically dominated this system. Among nations, it integrated 
the integrators. 


American leadership of the Second Wave world, however, was 
increasingly challenged by the rise of the Soviet Union. The U.S.S.R. 
and other socialist nations portrayed themselves as anti-imperialist 
friends of the colonial peoples of the world. In 1916, a year before he 
took power, Lenin had written a slashing attack on the capitalist 
nations for their colonial policies. His Imperialism became one of the 
most influential books of the century and still shapes the thinking of 
hundreds of millions around the world. 

But Lenin saw imperialism as a purely capitalist phenomenon. 

Capitalist nations, he insisted, oppressed and colonized other nations 
not out of choice but out of necessity. A dubious iron law, put forward 
by Marx, held that profits in capitalist economies showed a general, 
irresistible tendency to decline over time. Because of this, Lenin held, 
capitalist nations in their final stage were driven to seek "super-profits" 
abroad to compensate for diminishing profits at home. Only socialism, 
he argued, would free colonial peoples from their oppression and 
misery, because socialism had no built-in dynamic requiring their 
economic exploitation. 

What Lenin overlooked is that many of the same imperatives that 
drove capitalist industrial nations operated in socialist industrial nations 
as well. They, too, were part of the world money system. They, too, 
based their economies on the 


divorce of production from consumption. They, too, needed a market 
(albeit not necessarily a profit-oriented market) to reconnect producer 
and consumer. They, too, needed raw materials from abroad to feed 
their industrial machines. And for these reasons they, too, needed an 
integrated world economic system through which to obtain their 
necessities and sell their products abroad. 

Indeed Lenin, at the very same time he attacked imperialism, spoke of 
socialism's aim "not only to bring the nations closer together but to 
integrate them." As the Soviet analyst M. Senin has written in Socialist 
Integration, Lenin by 1920 "regarded the drawing together of nations 
as an objective process which . . . will finally and ultimately lead to the 
creation of a single world economy, regulated by ... a common plan." 
This, if anything, was lie ultimate industrial vision. 

Externally, socialist industrial nations were driven by the same 
resource needs as capitalist nations. They, too, needed cotton, coffee, 
nickel, sugar, wheat, and other goods to feed their fast-multiplying 
factories and their urban populations. The Soviet Union had (and still 
has) enormous reserves of natural resources. It has manganese, lead, 
zinc, coal, phosphates, and gold. But so had the United States, and 
that stopped neither nation from seeking to buy from others at the 
cheapest possible price. 

From its inception the Soviet Union became part of the world money 
system. Once any nation entered this system and accepted the 
"normal" ways of doing business, it immediately locked itself into 
conventional definitions of efficiency and productivity — definitions that 
were themselves traceable back to early capitalism. It was compelled 
to accept, almost unconsciously, conventional economic concepts, 
categories, definitions, accounting methods, and units of 

Socialist managers and economists, exactly like their capitalist 
counterparts, thus calculated the cost of producing their own raw 
materials as against the cost of purchasing them. They faced a straight 
"make or buy" decision of the kind capitalist corporations confront 
every day. And it soon became apparent that buying certain raw 
materials on the world market would be cheaper than trying to produce 
them at home. 

Once this decision was made, sharp Soviet purchasing agents fanned 
out into the world market and bought at prices previously set at 
artificially low levels by imperialist traders. Soviet trucks rolled on 
rubber bought at prices that were 



probably determined ab initio by British merchants in Malaya. Worse, 
in recent years the Soviets (who maintain troops there) paid Guinea six 
dollars per ton for bauxite when the Americans were paying twenty- 
three dollars. India has protested that the Russians overcharge them 
30 percent on imports and pay 30 percent too little for Indian exports. 
Iran and Afghanistan received subnormal prices from the Soviets for 
natural gas. Thus the Soviet Union, like its capitalist adversaries, 
benefited at the expense of the colonies. To have done otherwise 
would have been to slow its own industrialization process. 

The Soviet Union was also driven toward imperialist policies by 
strategic considerations. Faced with the military might of Nazi 

Germany, the Soviets first colonized the Baltic states and made war on 
Finland. After World War II, with troops and the threat of invasion, they 
helped install or maintain "friendly" regimes throughout most of Eastern 
Europe. These countries, more industrially advanced than the U.S.S.R. 
itself, were intermittently milked by the Soviets, justifying their 
description as colonies or "satellites." 

"There can be no doubt," writes the neo-Marxist economist Howard 
Sherman, "that, in the years immediately following the Second World 
War, the Soviet Union removed a certain amount of resources from 
Eastern Europe without giving equal resources in payment . . . There 
was some direct plunder and military reparation. . . . There were also 
joint companies established with Soviet predominance hi control and 
Soviet exploitation of profits from these countries. There were also 
extremely unequal trade agreements that amounted to further 

At present there is apparently no direct plunder and the joint 
companies have disappeared, but, adds Sherman, "There is much 
evidence that most of the exchanges between the U.S.S.R. and most 
East European countries are still unequal — with the U.S.S.R. coming 
out best." How much "profit" is extruded by these means is difficult to 
determine, given the inadequacy of published Soviet statistics. It may 
well be that the costs of maintaining Soviet troops throughout Eastern 
Europe actually outweigh the economic benefits. But one. fact is 
indisputably clear. 

While the Americans built the IMF-GATT-World Bank structure, the 
Soviets moved toward Lenin's dream of a single integrated world 
economic system bv creating the Council for Mutual Economic 
Assistance (COMECON) and compelling 


the Eastern European countries to join it. COMECON countries are 
forced by Moscow not only to trade with one another and with the 
Soviet Union but to submit their economic development plans to 
Moscow for approval. Moscow, insisting on the Ricardiaji virtues of 
specialization, acting exactly like the old imperialist powers vis-a-vis 
African, Asian, or Latin American economies, has assigned specialized 
functions to each Eastern European economy. Only Romania has 
openly and staunchly resisted. 

Claiming that Moscow has tried to turn it into the "petrol pump and 
garden" of the Soviet Union, Romania has set out to achieve what it 
calls multilateral development, meaning a fully rounded 
industrialization. It has resisted "socialist integration" despite Soviet 
pressures. In sum, at the very time that the United States assumed 
leadership of the capitalist industrial nations and built its own self- 
serving mechanisms for integrating the world economic system anew 
after World War II, the Soviets built a counterpart of this system in the 
part of the world they dominated. 

No phenomenon as vast, complex, and transforming as imperialism 
can be described simply. Its effects on religion, on education, on 

health, on themes in literature and art, on racial attitudes, on the 
psycho-structure of whole peoples, as well as more directly on 
economics, are still being unraveled by the historians. It no doubt had 
positive accomplishments to its credit as well as atrocities. But its role 
in the rise of Second Wave civilisation cannot be overemphasized. 

We can think of imperialism as the supercharger or accelerator of 
industrial development in the Second Wave world. How rapidly would 
the United States, Western Europe, Japan, or the U.S.S.R. have been 
able to industrialize without infusions of food, energy, and raw 
materials from outside? What if the prices of scores of commodities 
like bauxite, manganese, tin, vanadium, or copper had been 30 to 50 
percent higher for a period of decades? 

The price of thousands of end-products would have been 
correspondingly higher — in some cases, no doubt, so high as to make 
mass consumption impossible. The shock of oil price increases in the 
early 1970's gives only a pale hint of the potential effects. 

Even if domestic substitutes had been available, the economic growth 
of the Second Wave nations would in all probability have been stunted. 
Without the concealed sub- 



sidles made possible by imperialism, capitalist and socialist, Second 
Wave civilization might well be today where it was in 1920 or 1930. 

The grand design should now be clear. Second Wave civilization cut 
up and organized the world into discrete nation-states. Needing the 
resources of the rest of the world, it drew First Wave societies and the 
remaining primitive peoples of the world into the money system. It 
created a globally integrated marketplace. But rampant industrialism 
was more than an economic, political, or social system. It was also a 
way of life and a way of thinking. It produced a Second Wave 

This mentality stands today as a key obstacle to the creation of a 
workable Third Wave civilization. 


As Second Wave civilization pushed its tentacles across the planet, 
transforming everything with which it came in contact, it carried with it 
more than technology or trade. Colliding with First Wave civilization, 
the Second Wave created hot only a new reality for millions but a new 
way of thinking about reality. 

Clashing at a thousand points with the values, concepts, myths, and 
morals of agricultural society, the Second Wave brought with it a 
redefinition of God ... of justice ... of love ... of power ... of beauty. It 
stirred up new ideas, attitudes, and analogies. It subverted and 
superseded ancient assumptions about time, space, matter, and 
causality. A powerful, coherent world view emerged that not only 

explained but justified Second Wave reality. This world view of 
industrial society has not had a name. It might best be termed "indust- 

Indust-reality was the overarching set of ideas and assumptions with 
which the children of industrialism were taught to understand then* 
world. It was the package of premises employed by Second Wave 
civilization, by its scientists, business leaders, statesmen, 
philosophers, and propagandists. 

There were, of course, countervoices, those who challenged the 
dominant ideas of indust-reality, but we are concerned here not with 
the side currents but with the mainstream of Second Wave thought. On 
the surface, it seemed, there was no mainstream at all. Rather, it 
appeared that there were two powerful ideological currents in conflict. 
By the middle of the nineteenth century every industrializing nation had 
its sharply 98 



defined left wing and its right, its advocates of individualism and free 
enterprise, and its advocates of collectivism and socialism. 

This battle of ideologies, at first confined to the industrializing nations 
themselves, soon spread around the globe. With the Soviet Revolution 
of 1917, and the organization of a centrally directed worldwide 
propaganda machine, the ideological struggle grew even more intense. 
And by the end of World War II, as the United States and the Soviet 
Union attempted to reintegrate the world market — or large parts of it — 
on their own terms, each side was spending huge sums to spread its 
doctrines to the world's non-industrial peoples. 

On one side were totalitarian regimes, on the other the so-called liberal 
democracies. Guns and bombs stood ready to take up where logical 
arguments ended. Seldom since the great collision of Catholicism and 
Protestantism during the Reformation had doctrinal lines been so 
sharply drawn between two theological camps. 

What few noticed, however, in the heat of this propaganda war, was 
that while each side promoted a different ideology, both were 
essentially hawking the same superideolagy. Their conclusions — their 
economic programs and political dogmas— differed radically, but many 
of their starting assump? tions were the same. Like Protestant and 
Catholic missionaries clutching different versions of the Bible, yet both 
preaching Christ, Marxists and anti-Marxists alike, capitalists and 
anticapitalists, Americans and Russians marched forth into Africa, 
Asia, and Latin America — the non-industrial regions of the world — 
blindly bearing the same set of fundamental premises. Both preached 
the superiority of industrialism to all other civilizations. Both were 
passionate apostles of indust-reality. 


The world view they disseminated was based on three deeply 
intertwined "indust-real" beliefs — three, ideas, that bound all Second 
Wave nations together and' differentiated theiu from much of the rest of 
the world. 

The first of these core beliefs had to do with nature. While socialists 
and capitalists might disagree violently about how to share its fruits, 
both looked upon nature in the same way. For both, nature was an 
object waiting to be exploited. I 



The idea that humans should hold dominion over nature can be traced 
at least as far back as Genesis. Nevertheless, it was decidedly a 
minority view until the industrial revolution. Most earlier cultures 
emphasized instead an acceptance of poverty and the harmony of 
humankind with its surrounding natural ecology. 

These earlier cultures were not particularly gentle with nature. They 
slashed and burned, overgrazed, and stripped the forests for firewood. 
But their power to do damage was limited. They had no great impact 
on the earth and no need for an explicit ideology to justify the damage 
they did. 

With the coming of Second Wave civilization one found capitalist 
industrialists gouging resources on a massive scale, pumping 
voluminous poisons into the air, deforesting whole regions in pursuit of 
profit, without much thought about side effects or long-term 
consequences. The idea that nature was there to be exploited provided 
a convenient rationalization for shortsightedness and selfishness. 

But the capitalists were scarcely alone. Wherever they took power, 
Marxist industrializers (despite their conviction that profit was the root 
of all evil) acted hi exactly the same way. Indeed, they built the conflict 
with nature right into their scriptures. 

Marxists pictured primitive peoples not as coexisting harmoniously with 
nature but as engaged in a fierce lif e-and-death struggle against it. 

With the emergence of class society, they held, the war of "man 
against nature" was unfortunately transformed into a war of "man 
against man." The achievement of a Communist classless society 
would permit humanity to get back to its first order of business once 
again — the war of man against nature. 

On both sides of the ideological divide, therefore, one found the same 
image of humanity standing hi opposition to nature and dominating it. 
This image was a key component of indust-reality, the superideology 
from which Marxist and anti-Marxist alike drew their assumptions. 

A second, interrelated idea carried the argument a step fur-er. Humans 
were not merely in charge of nature, they were the pinnacle of a long 
process of evolution. Earlier theories of evolution existed, but it was 
Darwin, in the middle of the nineteenth century, brought up hi the most 
advanced industrial nation of the time, who provided scientific 

underpinning for this view. He spoke of the blind workings of "natural 



lection'* — an inevitable process that mercilessly weeded out weak and 
inefficient forms of life. Those species who survived were, by definition, 
the fittest. 

Darwin was chiefly concerned with biological evolution, but his ideas 
had distinct social and political overtones that others were quick to 
recognize. Thus the Social Darwinists argued that the principle of 
natural selection worked within society as well, and that the wealthiest 
and most powerful people were, by virtue of that fact, the fittest and the 
most deserving. 

It was only a short leap to the idea that whole societies evolve 
according to the same laws of selection. Following this reasoning, 
industrialism was a higher stage of evolution than the non-industrial 
cultures that surrounded it. Second Wave civilization, to put it bluntly, 
was superior to all the rest. 

Just as Social Darwinism rationalized capitalism, this cultural 
arrogance rationalized imperialism. The expanding industrial order 
needed its lifeline to cheap resources, and it created a moral 
justification for taking them at depressed prices, even at the cost of 
obliterating agricultural and so-called primitive societies. The idea of 
social evolution provided intellectual and moral support for the 
treatment of non-industrial peoples as inferior — and hence unfitted for 

Darwin himself wrote unfeelingly of the massacre of the aborigines of 
Tasmania and, in a burst of genocidal enthusiasm, prophesied that "At 
some future period ... the civilized races of man will almost certainly 
exterminate, and replace, the savage races throughout the world." The 
intellectual front-runners of Second Wave civilization had no doubt 
about who deserved to survive. 

While Marx bitterly criticized capitalism and imperialism, he shared the 
view that industrialism was the most advanced form of society, the 
stage toward which all other societies would inevitably advance in turn. 

For the third core belief of indust-reality that linked nature and 
evolution together was the progress principle — the idea that history 
flows irreversibly toward a better life for humanity. This idea, too, had 
plenty of preindustrial precedent. But it was only with the advance of 
the Second Wave that the idea of Progress with a capital P burst into 
full flower. 

Suddenly, as the Second Wave pulsed over Europe a thousand throats 
began to sing the same hallelujah chorus. Leibniz, Turgot, Condorcet, 
Kant, Lessing, John Stuart Mill, 


Hegel, Marx, Darwin, and countless lesser thinkers all found reasons 
for cosmic optimism. They argued over whether progress was truly 
inevitable or whether it needed a helping hand from the human race; 
over what constituted a better life; over whether progress would or 
could continue ad infi-nitum. But they all nodded in agreement at the 
notion of progress itself. 

Atheists and divines, students and professors, politicians and scientists 
preached the new faith. Businessmen and commissars alike heralded 
each new factory, each new product, each new housing development, 
highway, or dam as evidence of this irresistible advance from bad to 
good or good to better. Poets, playwrights, and painters took progress 
for granted. Progress justified the degradation of nature and the 
conquest of "less advanced" civilizations. 

And once more the same idea ran parallel through the works of both 
Adam Smith and Karl Marx. As Robert Heil-broner has noted, "Smith 
was a believer hi progress. ... In The Wealth of Nations progress was 
no longer an idealistic goal of mankind, but ... a destination to which it 
was driven ... a by-product of private economic aims." For Marx, of 
course, these private aims produced only capitalism and the seeds of 
its own destruction. But this event in itself was part of the long 
historical sweep carrying humanity forward to socialism, communism, 
and an even better beyond. Throughout Second Wave civilization, 
therefore, three key concepts — the war with nature, the importance of 
evolution, and the progress principle — provided the ammunition used 
by the agents of industrialism as they explained and justified it to the 

Beneath these convictions lay still deeper assumptions about reality — 
a set of unspoken beliefs about the very ele-mentals of human 
experience. Every human being must deal with these elementals, and 
every civilization describes them in a different way. Every civilization 
must teach its children to grapple with tune and space. It must 
explain — whether through myth, metaphor, or scientific theory — how 
nature works. And it must offer some clue to why things happen as 
they do. 

Thus Second Wave civilization, as it matured, created a wholly new 
image of reality, based on its own distinctive assumptions about time 
and space, matter and cause. Picking up fragments from the past, 
piecing them together in new 



ways, applying experiment and empirical tests, it drastically altered the 
way human beings came to perceive the world around them and how 
they behaved in their daily lives. 


We have seen in an earlier chapter how the spread of industrialism 
was dependent upon the synchronization of human behavior with the 

rhythms of the machine. Synchronization was on© of the- guiding 
principles of Second Wave civilization, and everywhere the people of 
industrialism appeared to outsiders to be time-obsessed, always 
glancing nervously at their watches. 

To bring about this time-consciousness and achieve synchronization, 
however, people's basic assumptions about time — their mental images 
of time — had to be transformed. A new "software of time" was needed. 

Agricultural populations, needing to know when to plant and when to 
harvest, developed remarkable precision in the measurement of long 
spans of time. But because they did not require close synchronization 
of human labor, peasant peoples seldom developed precise units for 
measuring short spans. They typically divided time not into fixed units, 
like hours or minutes, but into loose, imprecise chunks representing 
the length of time needed to perform some homely task. A farmer 
might refer to an interval as "a cow milking time." In Madagascar, an 
accepted unit of time was called "a rice cooking"; a moment was 
known as "the frying of a locust" Englishmen spoke of a "pater noster 
wyle" — the tune needed for a prayer — or, more earthily, of a "pissing 

Similarly, because there was little exchange between one community 
or village and the next, and because work did not require it, the units in 
which time was mentally packaged varied from place to place and 
season to season. In medieval northern Europe, for example, daylight 
was divided into equal hours. But since the interval between dawn and 
sunset varied from day to day, an "hour" in December was shorter than 
an "hour" in March or June. 

Instead of vague intervals like a pater noster wyle, industrial societies 
needed extremely precise units like hour, minute, or second. And these 
units had to be standardized, interchangeable from one season or 
community to the next. Today the entire world is neatly divided into 
time zones. 



We speak of "standard" time. Pilots all over the globe refer back to 
"Zulu" time — i.e., Greenwich Mean Time. By international convention 
Greenwich, England, became the point from which all time differences 
would be measured. Periodically, hi unison, as though motivated by a 
single will, millions of people set their clocks back or forward an hour, 
and whatever our inner, subjective sense of things may tell us when 
time is dragging, or conversely when it seems to be whizzing by, an 
hour is now a single interchangeable, standardized hour. 

Second Wave civilization did more than cut tune up into more precise 
and standard chunks. It also placed these chunks in a straight line that 
extended indefinitely back into the past and forward into the future. It 
made time linear. 

Indeed, the assumption that time is linelike is so deeply embedded in 
our thoughts that it is hard for those of us raised hi Second Wave 

societies to conceive of any alternative. Yet many preindustrial 
societies, and some First Wave societies even today, see time as a 
circle, not a straight line. From the Mayas to the Buddhists and the 
Hindus, time was circular and repetitive, history repeating itself 
endlessly, lives perhaps reliving themselves through reincarnation. 

The idea that time was like a great circle is found in the Hindu concept 
of recurrent kalpas, each one four thousand million years long, each 
representing but a single Brahma day beginning with re-creation, 
ending hi dissolution, and beginning again. The notion of circular time 
is found in Plato and Aristotle, one of whose students, Eudemus, 
pictured himself living through the same moment again and again as 
the cycle repeated itself. It was taught by Pythagoras. In Time and 
Eastern Man, Joseph Needham tells us that "For the Indo-Hellenic . . . 
time is cyclical and eternal.*' Moreover, while in China the idea of linear 
time dominated, according to Needham, "Cyclical time was certainly 
prominent among the early Taoist speculative philosophers." 

In Europe, too, in the centuries preceding industrialization, these 
alternative views of time coexisted. "Throughout the whole medieval 
period," writes mathematician G. J. Whit-row, "the cyclic and linear 
concepts of time were in conflict The linear concept was fostered by 
the mercantile class and the rise of a money economy. For as long as 
power was concentrated in the ownership of land, time was felt to be 
plentiful and was associated with the unchanging cycle of the soil." 



As the Second Wave gathered force this age-old conflict was settled: 
linear time triumphed. Linear time became the dominant view in every 
industrial society. East or West. Time came to be seen as a highway 
unrolling from a distant past through the present toward the future, and 
this conception of time, alien to billions of humans who lived before 
industrial civilization, became the basis of all economic, scientific, and 
political planning, whether in the executive suite of IBM, the Japanese 
Economic Planning Agency, or the Soviet Academy. 

It is worth noting, however, that linear time was a precondition for 
indust-real views of evolution and progress. Linear time made 
evolution and progress plausible. For if time were circular instead of 
linelike, if events doubled back on themselves instead of moving in a 
single direction, it would mean that history repeated itself and that 
evolution and progress were no more than illusions — shadows on the 
wall of time. 

Synchronization. Standardization. Linearization. They affected the root 
assumptions of the civilization and they brought massive changes in 
the way ordinary people handled time in their lives. But if time itself 
was transformed, space, too, had to be repackaged to fit into the new 


Long before the dawn of First Wave civilization, when our most distant 
ancestors relied on hunting and herding, fishing, or foraging for 
survival, they kept constantly on the move. Driven by hunger, cold, or 
ecological mishaps, pursuing weather or game, they were the original 
"high-mobiles" — traveling light, avoiding the accumulation of 
cumbersome goods or property, and ranging widely over the 
landscape. A band of fifty men, women, and children might need a land 
area six times the size of Manhattan Island to feed them, or they might 
trace a migratory path over literally hundreds of miles each year as 
conditions demanded. They led what today's geographers call a 
"spatially extensive*' existence. 

First Wave civilization, by contrast, bred a race of "space misers." As 
nomadism was replaced by agriculture, migratory trails gave way to 
cultivated fields and permanent settlements. Rather than roaming 
restlessly over an extensive area, the farmer and his family stayed put, 
intensively working their 


tiny patch, within the larger sea of space — a sea so large as to dwarf 
the individual. 

By the period immediately preceding the birth of industrial civilization, 
vast open fields surrounded each huddle of peasant huts. Apart from a 
handful of merchants, scholars, and soldiers, most individuals lived 
their lives at the end of a very short tether. They walked to the fields at 
sunrise, then back again at nightfall. They traced a path to church. On 
rare occasions they trekked to the next village six or seven miles away. 
Conditions varied with climate and terrain, of course, but according to 
historian J. R. Hale, "We should probably not be far wrong if we took 
the average longest journey made by most people in their lifetimes as 
fifteen miles." Agriculture produced a "spatially restricted" civilization. 

The industrial storm that broke over Europe in the eighteenth century 
created once again a "spatially extended" culture — but now on a nearly 
planetary scale. Goods, people, and ideas were transported thousands 
of miles and vast populations migrated in search of jobs. Instead of 
production being widely dispersed in the fields, it was now 
concentrated in cities. Huge, teeming populations were compressed 
into a few tightly packed nodes. Old villages shriveled and died; 
booming industrial centers sprang up, rimmed with smokestacks and 
furnace fire. 

This dramatic reworking of the landscape required much more complex 
coordination between city and country. Thus food, energy, people, and 
raw materials had to flow into the urban nodes, while manufactured 
goods, fashions, ideas, and financial decisions flowed out. The two 
flows were carefully integrated and coordinated in time and space. 
Within the cities themselves, moreover, a much wider variety of spatial 
shapes was needed. In the old agricultural system the basic physical 
structures were a church, a nobleman's palace, some wretched huts, 
an occasional tavern or monastery. Second Wave civilization, because 
of its much more elaborate division of labor, demanded many more 
specialized types of space. 

Architects, for this reason, soon found themselves creating offices, 
banks, police stations, factories, railroad terminals, department stores, 
prisons, fire houses, asylums, and theaters. These many different 
types of space had to be fitted together in logically functional ways. 

The location of factories, the pathways that led from home to shop, the 
relationships of rail- 



road sidings to docks or truck yards, the placement of schools and 
hospitals, of water pipes, power stations, conduits, gas lines, telephone 
exchanges — all had to be spatially coordinated. Space had to be as 
carefully organized as a Bach fugue. 

This remarkable coordination of specialized spaces — necessary to get 
the right people to the right places at the right moment — was the exact 
spatial analogue of temporal synchronization. It was, in effect, 
synchronization in space. For both time and space had to be more 
carefully structured if industrial societies were to function. 

Just as people had to be provided with more exact and standardized 
units of tune, they also needed more precise and interchangeable units 
of space. Prior to the industrial revolution, when time was still being 
sliced up into crude units like pater noster wyles, spatial measures, 
too, were a mishmash. In medieval England, for example, a "rood" 
might be as little as sixteen and a half feet or as much as twenty-four 
feet In the sixteenth century the best advice on how to arrive at a 
measured rood was to select sixteen men at random as they walked 
out of church, to stand them in a line "then* left feet one behind the 
other," and to measure off the resulting distance. Even vaguer terms 
were used, such as "a day's ride,** "an hour's walk," or "half an hour's 

Such looseness could no longer be tolerated once the Second Wave 
began to change work patterns, and the invisible wedge created an 
ever-expanding marketplace. Precise navigation, for example, became 
more and more important as trade increased, and governments offered 
huge prizes to anyone who could devise better methods of keeping 
merchant ship? on course. On land, too, more and more refined 
measurements and more precise units were introduced. 

The confusing, contradictory, chaotic variety of local customs, laws, 
and trade practices that prevailed during First Wave civilization had to 
be cleaned up, rationalized. Lack of precision and standard 
measurement were a daily aggravation to manufacturers and the rising 
merchant class. This explains the enthusiasm with which the French 
revolutionaries, at the dawn of the industrial era, applied themselves to 
the standardization- of distance through the metric system as well as 
time through a new calendar. So important did they deem these 
problems that they were among the very first items taken up when the 
National Convention first met to declare a republic. 



The Second Wave of change also brought with it a multiplication and 
sharpening of spatial boundaries. Until the eighteenth century the 
boundaries of empires were often imprecise. Because vast areas were 
unpopulated, precision was unnecessary. As population rose, trade 
increased, and the first factories began to spring up around Europe, 
many governments began systematically to map their frontiers. 
Customs zones were more clearly delineated. Local and even private 
properties came to be more carefully defined, marked, fenced, and 
recorded. Maps became more detailed, inclusive, and standardized. 

A new image of space arose that corresponded exactly to the new 
image of time. As punctuality and scheduling set more limits and 
deadlines in tune, more and more boundaries cropped up to set limits 
in space. Even the linearization of time had its spatial counterpart. 

In preindustrial societies straight-line travel, whether by land or sea, 
was an anomaly. The peasant's path, the cowpath or Indian trail, all 
meandered according to the lay of the land. Many walls curved, 
bulged, or went off at irregular angles. The streets of medieval cities 
folded in on one another, curved, twisted, convoluted. 

Second Wave societies not only put ships on exact straight-line 
courses, they also built railroads whose shining tracks stretched in 
parallel straight lines as far as the eye could see. As the American 
planning official Grady Clay has noted, these rail lines (the term itself is 
a giveaway) became the axis off which new cities, built on grid 
patterns, took shape. The grid or gridiron pattern, combining straight 
lines with ninety-degree angles, lent a characteristic machine regularity 
and linearity to the landscape. 

Even now in looking at a city one can see a jumble of streets, squares, 
circles, and complicated intersections in the older districts. These 
frequently give way to neat gridirons in those parts of the city built hi 
later, more industrialized periods. The same is true for whole regions 
and countries. 

Even farm land began, with mechanization, to show linear patterns. 
Preindustrial farmers, plowing behind oxen, created curvy, irregular 
furrows. Once the ox had started, the farmer did not want to stop him 
and the beast curved wide at the end of the furrow, forming a kind of S- 
curve pattern hi the land. Today anyone looking out the window of an 
airplane sees squared off fields with ruler-straight plow marks. 

The combination of straight lines and ninety-degree angles 



was reflected not merely on the land and in the streets but in the 
intimate spaces experienced by most men and women — the rooms 
they lived in. Curved walls and non-right angles are seldom found in 
industrial age architecture. Neat rectangular cubicles came to replace 
irregularly shaped rooms, and high-rise buildings carried the straight 

line vertically toward the sky as well, with windows forming linear or 
grid patterns on the great walls facing the now straight streets. 

Thus our conception of and experience of space went through a 
process of linearization that paralleled the linearization of time. In all 
industrial societies, capitalist or socialist, Eastern or Western, the 
specialization of architectural spaces, the detailed map, the use of 
uniform, precise units of measurement and, above all, the line, became 
a cultural constant — basic to the new indust-reality. 


Second Wave civilization not only built up new images of time and 
space and used them to shape daily behavior, it constructed its own 
answers to the age-old question: What are things made of? Every 
culture invents its own myths and metaphors in an attempt to answer 
this question. For some, the universe is imagined as a swirling 
"oneness." People are seen as a part of nature, integrally tied into the 
lives of their ancestors and descendants, stitched into the natural world 
so closely as to share in the actual "livingness" of animals, trees, 
rocks, and rivers. In many societies, moreover, the individual 
conceives of herself or himself less as a private, autonomous entity 
than as part of a larger organism — the family, the clan, the tribe or 

Other societies have emphasized not the wholeness or unity of the 
universe but its dividedness. They have looked upon reality not as a 
fused entity but as a structure built up out of many individual parts. 

Some two thousand years before the rise of industrialism Democritus 
put forward the then extraordinary idea that the universe was not a 
seamless whole but consisted of particles — discrete, indestructible, 
irreducible, invisible, unsplit-table. He called these particles atomos. In 
the centuries that followed, the idea of a universe built out of 
irreducible blocks of matter appeared and reappeared. In China shortly 
after Democritus' time, in the Mo Ching, a "point" was apparently 



defined as a line that had been chopped into such short segments that 
it could no longer be subdivided. In India, too, the theory of the atom or 
irreducible unit of reality cropped up not long after the time of Christ. In 
ancient Rome the poet Lucretius expounded the atomist philosophy. 
Nevertheless, this image of matter remained a minority view, often 
derided or neglected. 

It was not until the dawn of the Second Wave era that atomism 
became a dominating idea as several streams of intermingling 
influences converged to revolutionize our conception of matter. 

In the middle of the seventeenth century a French abbe" named Pierre 
Gassendi, an astronomer and philosopher at the Royal College in 
Paris, began arguing that matter must consist of ultra-small 
corpuscula. Influenced by Lucretius, Gassendi became so forceful an 

advocate of the atomic view of matter that his ideas soon crossed the 
English Channel and reached Robert Boyle, a young scientist studying 
the compressibility of gas. Boyle transferred the idea of atomism from 
speculative theory into the laboratory and concluded that even air itself 
was composed of tiny particles. Six years after Gassendi's death, 

Boyle published a treatise arguing that any substance — earth, for 
example — that could be broken down into simpler substances is not, 
and could not be, an element. 

Meanwhile, Rene" Descartes, a Jesuit-trained mathematician whom 
Gassendi criticized, contended that reality could only be understood by 
breaking it down into smaller and smaller bits. In his own words, it was 
necessary "to divide each of the difficulties under examination into as 
many parts as possible." Side by side, therefore, as the Second Wave 
began its surge, philosophical atomism advanced with physical 

Here was a deliberate assault on the notion of oneness — an assault 
promptly joined by wave after wave of scientists, mathematicians, and 
philosophers who proceeded to break the universe into even smaller 
fragments, with exciting results. Once Descartes published his 
Discourse on Method, writes the microbiologist Rene Dubos, 
"innumerable discoveries immediately emerged from its application to 
medicine." In chemistry and other fields the combination of atomic 
theory and Descartes's atomic method brought startling breakthroughs. 
By the mid-1700's the notion that the universe consisted of 
independent separable parts and subparts was 



itself conventional wisdom — part of the emerging indust-reality. 

Every new civilization plucks ideas from the past and reconfigures 
them in ways that help it understand itself in relationship to the world. 
For a budding industrial society — a society just beginning to move 
toward the mass production of assembled machine products 
composed of discrete components — the idea of an assembled 
universe, itself composed of discrete components, was probably 

There were political and social reasons, too, for the acceptance of the 
atomic model of reality. As the Second Wave crashed against the old 
pre-existing First Wave institutions, it needed to tear people loose from 
the extended family, the all-powerful church, the monarchy. Industrial 
capitalism needed a rationale for individualism. As the old agricultural 
civilization decayed, as trade expanded and towns multiplied in the 
century or two before the dawn of industrialism, the rising merchant 
classes, demanding the freedom to trade and lend and expand their 
markets, gave rise to a new conception of the individual — the person 
as atom. 

The person was no longer merely a passive appendage of tribe, caste, 
or clan but a free, autonomous individual. Each individual had the right 
to own property, to acquire goods, to wheel and deal, to prosper, to 

starve according to his or her own active efforts, with the 
corresponding right to choose a religion and to pursue private 
happiness. In short, indust-real-ity gave rise to a conception of an 
individual who was remarkably like an atom — irreducible, 
indestructible, the basic particle of society. 

The atomic theme even appeared, as we have seen, in politics, where 
the vote became the ultimate particle. It appeared in our conception of 
international affairs as consisting of self-contained, impenetrable, 
independent units called nations. Not only physical matter but social 
and political matter were conceived in terms of "bricks" — autonomous 
units or atoms. The atomic theme ran through every sphere of life. 

This view of reality as composed of organized separable chunks, in 
turn, fitted perfectly together with the new images of time and space, 
themselves divisible into smaller and smaller definable units. Second 
Wave civilization, as it expanded and overpowered both "primitive" 
societies and First Wave civilization, propagated this increasingly 
coherent and consistent industrial view of people, politics, and society. 


One final piece was missing, however, to complete the logical system. 

Unless a civilization has some explanation for why things happen — 
even if its explanation is nine parts mystery to one part analysis — it 
cannot program lives effectively. People, in carrying out the 
imperatives of their culture, need some reassurance that their behavior 
will produce results. And this implies some answer to the perennial 
why. Second Wave civilization came up with a theory so powerful it 
seemed sufficient to explain everything. 

A rock smashes into the surface of a pond. Ripples swiftly radiate out 
across the water. Why? What causes this event? Chances are that 
children of industrialism would say, "because someone threw it." 

An educated European gentlemen of the twelfth or thirteenth century, 
in attempting to answer this question, would have had ideas 
remarkably different from our own. He probably would have relied on 
Aristotle and searched for a material cause, a formal cause, an 
efficient cause, and a final cause, no one of which would, by itself, 
have been sufficient to explain anything. A medieval Chinese sage 
might have spoken about the yin and yang, and the force-field of 
influences in which all phenomena were believed to occur. 

Second Wave civilization found its answer to the mysteries of 
causation in Newton's spectacular discovery of the universal law of 
gravitation. For Newton, causes were "the forces impressed upon 
bodies to generate motion." The conventional example of Newtonian 
cause and effect is the billiard balls that strike one another and move in 
response to one another. This notion of change, which focused 
exclusively on outside forces that are measurable and readily 
identifiable, was extremely powerful because it dovetailed perfectly 
with the new indust-real notions of linear space and time. Indeed, 

Newtonian or mechanistic causation, which came to be adopted as the 
industrial revolution spread over Europe, pulled indust-reality together 
into a hermetically sealed package. 

If the world consisted of separate particles — miniature billiard balls — 
then all causes arose from the interaction of these balls. One particle 
or atom struck another. The first was the cause of the movement of the 
next. That movement was the 



effect of the movement of the first There was no action without motion 
in space, and no atom could be in more than one place at one time. 

Suddenly a universe that had seemed complex, cluttered, 
unpredictable, richly crowded, mysterious, and messy, began to look 
neat and tidy. Every phenomenon from the atom inside a human cell to 
the coldest star in the distant night sky could be understood as matter 
in motion, each particle activating the next, forcing it to move in an 
endless dance of existence. For the atheist this view provided an 
explanation of life in which, as Laplace later put it, the hypothesis of 
God was unnecessary. For the religious, however, it still left room for 
God, since He could be regarded as the Prime Mover who used the 
cue stick to set the billiard balls in motion, then perhaps retired from 
the game. 

This metaphor for reality came like a shot of intellectual adrenaline into 
the emerging indust-real culture. One of the radical philosophers who 
helped set the climate of the French Revolution, the Baron d'Holbach, 
exulted, "The universe, that vast assemblage of everything that exists, 
presents only matter and motion: the whole offers to our contemplation 
nothing but an immense, an uninterrupted succession of causes and 

It is all there — all implied in that one short, triumphant statement: the 
universe is an assembled reality, made of discrete parts put together 
into an "assemblage." Matter can only be understood hi terms of 
motion — i.e., movement through space. Events occur in a [linear] 
succession, a parade of events moving down the line of time. Human 
passions like hatred, selfishness, or love, d'Holbach went on, could be 
compared to physical forces like repulsion, inertia, or traction, and a 
wise political state could manipulate them for the public good just as 
science could manipulate the physical world for the common good. 

It is precisely from this indust-real image of the universe, from the 
assumptions buried within it, that some of the most potent of our 
personal, social, and political behavior patterns have come. Buried 
within them was the implication that not only the cosmos and nature 
but society and people behaved according to certain fixed and 
predictable laws. Indeed, the greatest thinkers of the Second Wave 
were precisely those who most logically and forcefully argued the 
lawfulness of the universe. 

Newton seemed to have discovered the laws that pro- 


grammed the heavens. Darwin had identified laws that programmed 
social evolution. And Freud supposedly laid bare the laws that 
programmed the psyche. Others — scientists, engineers, social 
scientists, psychologists — pressed the search for still more, or 
different, laws. 

Second Wave civilization now had at its command a theory of causality 
that seemed miraculous in its power and wide applicability. Much that 
hitherto had seemed complex could be reduced to simple explanatory 
formulae. Nor were these laws or rules to be accepted simply because 
Newton or Marx or someone laid them down. They were subject to 
experiment and empirical test. They could be validated. Using them, 
we could build bridges, send radio waves into the sky, predict and 
retrodict biological change; we could manipulate the economy, 
organize political movements or machines, and even — so they 
claimed — foresee and shape the behavior of the ultimate individual. 

All that was needed was to find the critical variable to explain any 
phenomenon. We could accomplish anything if only we could find the 
appropriate ''billiard ball' and hit it from the best angle. 

This new causality, combined with the new images of time, space, and 
matter, liberated much of the human race from the tyranny of ancient 
mumbo jumbo. It made possible triumphant achievements in science 
and technology, miracles of conceptualization and practical 
accomplishment. It challenged authoritarianism and liberated the mind 
from millennia of imprisonment. 

But indust-reality also created its own new prison, an industrial 
mentality that derogated or ignored what it could not quantify, that 
frequently praised critical rigor and punished imagination, that reduced 
people to oversimplified protoplasmic units, that ultimately sought an 
engineering solution for any problem. 

Nor was indust-reality as morally neutral as it pretended to be. It was, 
as we have seen, the militant super-ideology of Second Wave 
civilization, the self-justifying source from which all the characteristic 
left-wing and right-wing ideologies of the industrial age sprang. Like 
any culture, Second Wave civilization produced distorting filters 
through which its people came to see themselves and the universe. 

This package of ideas, images, assumptions — and the analogies that 
flowed from them — formed the most powerful cultural system in history. 



Finally, indust-reality, the cultural face of industrialism, fitted the society 
it helped to construct. It helped create the society of big organizations, 
big cities, centralized bureaucracies, and the all-pervasive 
marketplace, whether capitalist or socialist. It dovetailed perfectly with 
the new energy systems, family systems, technological systems, 

economic systems, political and value systems that together formed 
the civilization of the Second Wave. 

It is that entire civilization taken together, along with its institutions, 
technologies, and its culture, that is now disintegrating under an 
avalanche of change as the Third Wave, in its turn, surges across the 
planet. We live in the final, irretrievable crisis of industrialism. And as 
the industrial age passes into history, a new age is born. 



One mystery remains. Industrialism was a flash flood in history — a brief 
three centuries lost in the immensity of time. What caused the 
industrial revolution? What sent the Second Wave surging across the 

Many streams of change flowed together to form a great confluence. 

The discovery of the New World sent a pulse of energy into Europe's 
culture and economy on the eve of the industrial revolution. Population 
growth encouraged a movement into the towns. The exhaustion of 
Britain's timber forests prompted the use of coal. In turn, this forced the 
mine shafts deeper and deeper until the old horse-driven pumps could 
no longer clear them of water. The steam engine was perfected to 
solve this problem, leading to a fantastic array of new technological 
opportunities. The gradual dissemination of indust-real ideas 
challenged church and political authority. The spread of literacy, the 
improvement of roads and transport — all these converged in time, 
forcing open the floodgates of change. 

Any search for The cause of the industrial revolution is doomed. For 
there was no single or dominant cause. Technology, by itself, is not the 
driving force of history. Nor, by themselves, are ideas or values. Nor is 
the class struggle. Nor is history merely a record of ecological shifts, 
demographic trends or communications inventions. Economics alone 
cannot explain this or any other historical event. There is no 
"independent variable" upon which all other variables depend. There 
are only interrelated variables, boundless in complexity. Faced with 
this maze of causal influences, unable even to 1 16 



trace all their interactions, the most we can do is focus on those that 
seem most revealing for our purposes and recognize the distortion 
implicit in that choice. In this spirit, it is clear that of all the many forces 
that flowed together to form Second Wave civilization, few had more 
traceable consequences than the widening split between producer and 
consumer, and the growth of that fantastic exchange network we now 
call the market, whether capitalist or socialist in form. 

The greater the divorce of producer from consumer — in time, in 
space, and in social and psychic distance — the more the market, in all 

its astonishing complexity, with all its train of values, its implicit 
metaphors and hidden assumptions, came to dominate social reality. 

As we have seen, this invisible wedge produced the entire modern 
money system with its central banking institutions, its stock exchanges, 
its world trade, its bureaucratic planners, its quantitative and 
calculating spirit, its contractual ethic, its materialist bias, its narrow 
measurement of success, its rigid reward systems, and its powerful 
accounting apparatus, whose cultural significance we routinely 
underestimate. From this divorce of producer from consumer came 
many of the pressures toward standardization, specialization, 
synchronization, and centralization. From it came differences in sexual 
role and temperament. However we evaluate the many other forces 
that launched the Second Wave, this splitting of the ancient atom of 
production and/or consumption must surely rank high among them. 

The shock waves of that fission are still apparent today. 

Second Wave civilization did not merely alter technology, nature, and 
culture. IL altered personality, helping to produce a new social 
character. OF course, women and children shaped Second Wave 
civilization and were shaped by it. But because men were drawn more 
directly into the market matrix and the new modes of work, they took 
on more pronounced industrial characteristics than women, and 
women readers will perhaps forgive the use of the term Industrial Man 
to sum up these new characteristics. 

Industrial Man was different from all his forerunners. He was the 
master of "energy slaves" that amplified his puny 

power enormously. He spent much of his life in a factory -style 
environment, in touch with machines and organizations that dwarfed 
the individual. He learned, almost from infancy, that survival depended 
as never before on money. He typi-cally grew up in a nuclear Family, 
and went to a factory-style 



school. He got his basic image of the world from the mass media. He 
worked for a large corporation or public agency, belonged to unions, 
churches, and other organizations — to each of which he parceled out a 
piece of his divided self. He identified less and less with his village or 
city than with his nation. He saw himself standing in opposition to 
nature — exploiting it daily in his work. Yet he paradoxically rushed to 
visit it on weekends. (Indeed, the more he savaged nature, the more 
he romanticized and revered it with words.) He learned to see himself 
as part of vast, interdependent economic, social, and political systems 
whose edges faded into complexities beyond his understanding. 

Faced with this reality, he rebelled without success. He fought to make 
a living. He learned to play the games required by society, fitted into 
his assigned roles, often hating them and feeling himself a victim of the 
very system that improved his standard of living. He sensed straight- 
line time bearing him remorselessly toward trie mture with its waiting 
grave. And as his wristwatch ticked off the moments, he approached 

death knowing that the earth and every individual on it, including 
himself, were merely part of a larger cosmic machine whose motions 
were regular and relentless. 

Industrial Man occupied an environment that would have been in many 
respects unrecognizable to his ancestors. Even the most elementary 
sensory signals were different. 

The Second Wave changed the soundscape, substituting the factory 
whistle for the rooster, the screech of tires for the chirruping of crickets. 
It lit up the night, extending the hours of awareness. It brought visual 
images no eye had ever seen before — the earth photographed from 
the sky, or surrealist montages in the local cinema, or biological forms 
revealed for the first time by high-powered microscopes. The odor of 
night soil gave way to the smell of gasoline and the stench of phenols. 
The tastes of meat and vegetables were altered. The entire perceptual 
landscape was transformed. 

So too was the human body, which for the first time grew to what we 
now regard as its full normal height; successive generations grew taller 
than their parents. Attitudes toward the body changed as well. Norbert 
Elias tell us in The Civilizing Process that, whereas up to the sixteenth 
century in Germany and elsewhere in Europe, "the sight of total 
nakedness was an everyday rule, "nakedness came to be regarded as 
shameful when the Second Wave spread. Bedroom behavior changed 
as special nightclothes came into use. Eating became 



technologized with the diffusion of forks and other specialized table 
implements. From a culture that took active pleasure in the sight of a 
dead animal on the table came a shift toward one in which "reminders 
that the meat dish has something to do with the killing of an animal are 
to be avoided to the utmost.'*. 

Marriage became more than an economic convenience. War was 
amplified and put on the assembly line. Changes in the parent-child 
relationship, in opportunities for upward mobility, in every aspect of 
human relations brought for millions a radically changed sense of self. 

Faced by so many changes, psychological as well as economic, 
political as well as social, the brain boggles at evaluation. By what 
criteria do we judge an entire civilization? By the standard of living it 
provided for the masses who lived in it? By its influence on those who 
lived outside its perimeter? By its impact on the biosphere? By the 
excellence of its arts? By the lengthened life span of its people? By its 
scientific achievements? By the freedom of the individual? 

Within its borders, despite massive economic depressions and a 
horrifying waste of human life, .Second Waye civiliza-tion clearly 
improved the material standard of living of the ordinary person. Critics 
of industrialism, in describing the mass misery of the working class 
during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in Britain, often 
romanticize the First Wave past. They picture that rural past as warm, 

communal, stable, organic, and with spiritual rather than purely 
materialist values. Yet historical research reveals that these 
supposedly lovely rural communities were, in fact, cesspools of 
malnutrition, disease, poverty, homelessness, and tyranny, with people 
helpless against hunger, cold, and the whips of their landlords and 

Much has been made of the hideous slums that sprang up in or around 
the major cities, of the adulterated food, disease-bearing water 
supplies, the poorhouses and daily squalor. Yet, terrible as these 
conditions unquestionably were, they surely represented a vast 
improvement over the conditions most of these same people had left 
behind. The British author John Vaizey has noted, "The picture of 
bucolic yeoman England was an exaggerated one," and for significant 
numbers the move to the urban slum provided "in fact a dramatic rise 
in the standard of living, measured in terms of length of life, of a rise in 
the physical conditions of housing, and an im- 



provement in the amount and variety of what they had to eat" 

In terms of health, one need only read The Age of Agony by Guy 
Williams or Death, Disease and Famine in Pre-Indus-trial England by 
L. A. Clarkson to counteract those who glorify First Wave civilization at 
the expense of Second. Christina Lamer, in a review of these books, 
states, "The work of social historians and demographers has 
highlighted the overwhelming presence of disease, pain and death in 
the open countryside as well as the noxious towns. Life expectancy 
was low: about 40 years in the 16th century, reduced to the mid-thirties 
in the epidemic-ridden 17th century, and rising to the early forties in the 
18th. ... It was rare for married couples to have long years together ... 
all children were at hazard." However justly we may criticize today's 
crisis-ridden, misdirected health systems, it is worth recalling that 
before the industrial revolution official medicine was deadly, 
emphasizing bloodletting and surgery without anesthesia. 

The major causes of death were plague, typhus, influenza, dysentery, 
smallpox, and tuberculosis. "It is often observed by the sages," Lamer 
writes dryly, "that we have merely replaced these by a different set of 
killers, but these do leave us till a little later. Pre-industrial epidemic 
disease killed the young indiscriminately with the old." 

Moving from health and economics to art and ideology — was 
industrialism, for all its narrow-minded materialism, any more mentally 
stultifying than the feudal societies that preceded it? Was the 
mechanistic mentality, or indust-reality, any less open to new ideas, 
even heresies, than the medieval church or the monarchies of the 
past? For all we detest our giant bureaucracies, are they more rigid 
than the Chinese bureaucracies of centuries ago, or ancient Egyptian 
hierarchies? And as for art, are the novels and poems and paintings of 
the past three hundred years in the West any less alive, profound, 
revealing, or complex than the works of earlier periods or different 

The dark side, however, is also present. While Second Wave 
civilization did much to improve the conditions of our "fathers and 
mothers, it also triggered violent external conse-quences — 
unanticipated side effects. Among these was the rampant, perhaps 
irreparable damage done to the earth's fragile biosphere. Because of 
its indust-real bias against 

nature, because of its expanding population, its brute technol- 

ogy, and its incessant need for expansion, it wreaked more 
environmental havoc than any preceding age. I have read the 
accounts'of horse dung in the streets of preindustrial cities (usually 
offered as reassuring evidence that pollution is nothing new). I am 
aware that sewage filled the streets of ancient towns. Nevertheless, 
industrial society raised the problems of ecological pollution and 
resource use to a radically new level, making the present and past 

Never before did any civilization create the means for literally 
destroying not a city but a planet. Never did whole oceans face 
toxification, whole species vanish overnight from the earth as a result 
of human greed or inadvertence; never did mines scar the earth's 
surface so savagely; never did hair-spray aerosols deplete the ozone 
layer, or thermopollu-tion threaten the planetary climate. 

Similar but even more complex is the question of imperial-ism. The 
enslavement of Indians to dig the mines of South America, the 
introduction of plantation farming in large parts of Africa and Asia, the 
deliberate distortion of colonial economies to suit the needs of the 
industrial nations, all left agony, hunger, disease, and deculturation in 
their wake. The racism exuded by Second Wave civilization, the forced 
integration of small-scale self-sufficient economies into the world trade 
system, left festering wounds that have not yet begun to heal. 

However, once again it would be a mistake to glamorize these early 
subsistence economies. It is questionable whether the populations of 
even the non-industrial regions of the earth are worse off today than 
they were three hundred years ago. In terms of life span, food intake, 
infant mortality, literacy, as A well as human dignity, hundreds of 
millions of human beings today, from the Sahel to Central America, 
suffer indescribable miseries. Yet it would be a disservice to them to 
invent a fake, romantic past in our rush to judge the present. The way 
into the future is not through reversion to an even more miserable past. 

Just as there is no single cause that produced Second Wave 
civilization, so there can be no single evaluation. I have tried to present 
a picture of Second Wave civilization with its faults included. If I appear 
on the one hand to condemn it and on the other to approve, it is 
because simple judgments are misleading. I detest the way 
industrialism crushed First Wave and primitive peoples. I cannot forget 

the way it massi-fied war and invented Auschwitz and unleashed the 
atom to 


incinerate Hiroshima. I am ashamed of its cultural arrogance and its 
depredations against the rest of the world. I am sickened by the waste 
of human energy, imagination, and spirit in our ghettos and barrios. 

Yet unreasoning hatred for one's own time and people is hardly the 
best basis for creation of the future. Was industrialism an air- 
conditioned nightmare, a wasteland, an unmitigated horror? Was it a 
world of "single vision" as claimed by the enemies of science and 
technology? No doubt. But it was far more than that as well. It was, like 
life itself, a bittersweet instant in eternity. 

However one chooses to evaluate the fading present, it is vital to 
understand that the industrial game is over, its energies spent, the 
force of the Second Wave diminshing everywhere as the next wave of 
change begins. Two changes, by themselves, make the "normal" 
continuation of inddustrial civ-ilization no longer possible. 

First, we've reached a turning point in the "war against nature." The 
biosphere will simply no longer tolerate the in-dustrial assault. Second, 
we can no longer rely indefinitelv on nonrenewable energy, until now 
the main subsidy of industrial development. 

These facts do not mean the end of technological society, or the end of 
energy. But they do mean that all future technological advance will be 
shaped by new environmental constraints. They also mean that until 
new sources are substituted, the industrial nations will suffer recurrent, 
possibly violent withdrawal symptoms, with the struggle to substitute 
new forms of energy itself accelerating social and political 

One thing is apparent: we are at the end — at least for some decades — 
of cheap energy. Second Wave civilization has lost one of its two most 
basic subsidies. 

Simultaneously that other hidden subsidy is being withdrawn: cheap 
raw materials. Faced with the end of colonialism and neoimperialism, 
the high technology nations will either turn inward for new substitutes 
and resources, buying from one another and gradually lessening their 
economic ties with the non-industrial states, or they will continue 
buying from the non-industrial countries but under totally new terms of 
trade. In either case costs will rise substantially, and the entire 
resource base of the civilization will be transformed along with its 
energy base. 


These external pressures on industrial society are matched by 
disintegrative pressures inside the system. Whether we focus on the 
"family system in th'e United States or the telephone system in France 
(which is worse today than in some banana republics), or the 
commuter rail system in Tokyo (which is so bad that riders have 

stormed the stations and held rail officials hostage in protest), the story 
is the same: people and systems strained to the ultimate breaking 

Second Wave systems are in crisis. Thus we find crisis hi the welfare 
systems. Crisis in the postal systems. Crisis in the school systems. 
Crisis in the health-delivery systems. Crisis in the urban systems. 

Crisis in the international financial system. The nation-state itself is in 
crisis. The Second Wave value system is in crisis. 

Even the role system that held industrial civilization together is in crisis. 
This we see most dramatically in the struggle to redefine sex roles. In 
the women's movement, in the demands for the legalization of 
homosexuality, in the spread of unisex fashions, we see a continual 
blurring of the traditional expectations for the sexes. Occupational role- 
lines are blurring, too. Nurses and patients alike are redefining their 
roles vis-a-vis doctors. Police and teachers are breaking out of their 
assigned roles and taking illegal strike action. Paralegals are redefining 
the role of attorney. Workers, more and more, are demanding 
participation, infringing on tradi tional management roles. And this 
society-wide crack-up of the role structure upon which industrialism 
depended is far more revolutionary in its implications than all the 
overtly political protests and marches by which headline writers 
measure change. 

Finally, this convergence of pressures — the loss of key subsidies, the 
malfunctioning of the main life-support systems of the society, the 
break-up of the role structure — all produce crisis in that most elemental 
and fragile of structures: the personality. The collapse of Second Wave 
civilization has, 

created an epidpmic of personality crisis. 

Today we see millions desperately searching for their own shadows, 
devouring movies, plays, novels, and self-help books, no matter how 
obscure, that promise to help them lo cate their missing identities. In 
the United States, as we shall see, the manifestations of the 
personality crisis are bizarre. 

Its victims hurl themselves into group therapy, mysticism, or sexual 
games. They itch for change but are terrified by it. They urgently wish 
to leave their present existences and leap, 



somehow, to a new life — to become what they are not. They, want to 
change jobs, spouses, roles, and responsibilities. 

Even supposedly mature and complacent American businessmen are 
not exempt from this disaffection with the present. The American 
Management Association finds in a recent survey that fully 40 percent 
of middle managers are unhappy in their jobs, and over a third dream 
of an alternative career in which they feel they would be happier. Some 
act on their dissatisfaction. They drop out, become farmers or ski 

bums, they search for new life-styles, they return to school or simply 
chase themselves faster and faster around a shrinking circle and 
eventually crack under the pressure. 

Rooting about in themselves for the source of their discomfort, they 
undergo agonies of unnecessary guilt. They seem blankly unaware 
that what they are feeling inside themselves is the subjective reflection 
of a much larger objective crisis: they are acting out an unwitting 
drama within a drama. 

One can persist in viewing each of these various crises as an isolated 
event. We can ignore the connections between the energy crisis and 
the personality crisis, between new technologies and new sexual roles, 
and other such hidden interrelationships. But we do so at our peril. For 
what is happening is larger than any of these. Once we think in terms 
of successive waves of interrelated change, of the collision of these 
waves, we grasp the essential fact of our generation — that 
industrialism is dying away — and we can begin searching among signs 
of change for what is truly new, what is no longer industrial. We can 
identify the Third Wave. 

It is this Third Wave of change that will frame the rest of our lives. If we 
are to smooth the transition between the old dying civilization and the 
new one that is taking form, if we are to maintain a sense of self and 
the ability to manage our own lives through the intensifying crises that 
lie ahead, we must be able to recognize — and create — Third Wave 

For if we look closely around us we find, crisscrossing the 
manifestations of failure and collapse, early signs of growth and new 

If we listen closely we can hear the Third Wave already thundering on 
not so distant shores. 



In January 1950, just as the second half of the twentieth century 
opened, a gangling twenty-two-year-old with a newly minted university 
diploma took a long bus ride through the night into what he regarded 
as the central reality of our time. With his girl friend at his side and a 
pasteboard suitcase filled with books under the seat, he watched a 
gunmetal dawn come up as the factories of the American Midwest slid 
endlessly past the rain-swept window. 

America was the heartland of the world. The region ringing the Great 
Lakes was the industrial heartland of America. And the factory was the 
throbbing core of this heart of hearts: steel mills, aluminum foundries, 
tool and die shops, oil refineries, auto plants, mile after mile of dingy 
buildings vibrating with huge machines for stamping, punching, drilling, 
bending, welding, forging, and casting metal. The factory was the 
symbol of the entire industrial era and, to a boy raised in a semi- 
comfortable lower-middle-class home, after four years of Plato and T. 

S. Eliot, of art history and abstract social theory, the world it 
represented was as exotic as Tashkent or Tierra del Fuego. 

I spent five years in those factories, not as a clerk or personnel 
assistant but as an assembly hand, a millwright, a welder, a forklift 
driver, a punch press operator — stamping out fans, fixing machines in 
a foundry, building giant dust-control machines for African mines, 
finishing the metal on light trucks as they sped clattering and 
screeching past on the assembly line. I learned firsthand how factory 
workers struggled to earn a living in the industrial age. 




I swallowed the dust, the sweat and smoke of the foundry. My ears 
were split by the hiss of steam, the clank of chains, the roar of pug 
mills. I felt the heat as the white-hot steel poured. Acetylene sparks left 
burn marks on my legs. I turned out thousands of pieces a shift on a 
press, repeating identical movements until my mind and muscles 
shrieked. I watched the managers who kept the workers in their place, 
white-shirted men themselves endlessly pursued and harried by 
higher-ups. I helped lift a sixty-five-year-old woman out of the bloody 
machine that had just torn four fingers off her hand, and I still hear her 
cries — "Jesus and Mary, I won't be able to work againl'* 

The factory. Long live the factory! Today, even as new factories are 
being built, the civilization that made the factory into a cathedral is 
dying. And somewhere, right now, other young men and women are 
driving through the night into the heart of the emergent Third Wave 
civilizaion. Our task from here on will be to join, as it were, their quest 
for tomorrow. 

If we could pursue them to their destinations, where would we arrive? 

In the launching stations that hurl flaming vehicles and fragments of 
human consciousness into outer space? In oceanographic 
laboratories? In communal families? In teams working on artificial 
intelligence? In passionate religious sects? Are they living in voluntary 
simplicity? Are they climbing the corporate ladder? Are they running 
guns to terrorists? Where is the future being forged? 

If we ourselves were planning a similar expedition into the future, how 
would we prepare our maps? It is easy to say the future begins in the 
present. But which present? Our present is exploding with paradox. 

Our children are supersophisticated about drugs, sex, or space shots; 
some know far more about computers than their parents. Yet 
educational test scores plummet. Divorce rates continue their climb — 
but so do remarriage rates. Counter-feminists arise at the exact time 
that women win rights even the counterfeminists endorse. Gays 
demand their rights and come charging out of the closet — only to find 
Anita Bryant waiting for them. 

Intractable inflation grips all the Second Wave nations, yet 
unemployment continues to deepen, contradicting all our classical 
theories. At the very same time, in defiance of the logic of supply and 
demand, millions are demanding not merely jobs but work that is 
creative, psychologically ful- 



filling, or socially responsible. Economic contradictions multiply- 

In politics, parties lose the allegiance of their members at the precise 
moment when key issues — technology, for example — are becoming 
more politicized than ever. Meanwhile, over vast reaches of the earth, 
nationalist movements gain power — at the exact instant that the nation- 
state comes under intensifying attack in the name of globalism or 
planetary consciousness. 

Faced with such contradictions, how might we see behind the trends 
and counter-trends? No one, alas, has any magic answer to that 
question. Despite all the computer printouts, cluster diagrams, and 
mathematical models and matrices that futurist researchers use, our 
attempts to peer into tomorrow — or even to make sense of today — 
remain, as they must, more an art than a science. 

Systematic, research can teach us much. But in the end we must 
embrace— not dismiss — paradox and contradiction, hunch, 
imagination, and daring (though tentative) synthesis. 

In probing the future in the pages that follow, therefore, we must do 
more than identifvjmafor trends. Difficult as it may be, we must resist 
the temptation to be seduced by straight lines. Most people — including 
many futurists — conceive of tomorrow as a mere extension of today, 
forgetting that trends, no matter how seemingly powerful, do not 
merely continue in a linear fashion. They reach tipping points at which 
they explode into new phenomena. They reverse direction. They stop 
and start. Because something is happening now, or has been 
happening for three hundred years, is no guarantee that it will 
continue. We shall, in the pages ahead, watch for precisely those 
contradictions, conflicts, turnabouts, and breakpoints that make the 
future a continuing surprise. 

More important, we will search out the hidden connections among 
events that on the surface seem unrelated. It does little good to 
forecast the future of semiconductors or energy, or the future of the 
family (even one's own family), if the forecast springs from the premise 
that everything else will remain unchanged. For nothing will remain 
unchanged. The future is-fluid, not frozen. It is constructed by our 
shifting and changing daily decisions, and each event influences all 

Second Wave civilization placed an extremely heavy emphasis on our 
ability to dismantle problems into their components; it rewarded us less 
often for the ability to put ili«- 



pieces back together again. Most people are culturally more skilled as 
analysts than synthesists. This is one reason why our images of the 
future (and of ourselves in that future) are so fragmentary, 
haphazard — and wrong. Our job here will be to think like generalists, 
not specialists. 

Today I believe we stand on the edge of a new age of synthesis. In all 
intellectual fields, from the hard sciences to sociology, psychology, and 
economics — especially economics — we are likely to see a return to 
large-scale thinking, to general theory, to the putting of the pieces back 
together again. For it is beginning to dawn on us that our obsessive 
emphasis on quantified detail without context, on progressively finer 
and finer measurement of smaller and smaller problems, leaves us 
knowing more and more about less and less. 

Our approach in what follows, therefore, will be to look forJhose 
streams of change that are shaking our livesl to A re A veal the 
underground connections among thgn A not simply because eacn of 
tnese is important in. ItselfTbut because of the way these streams of 
change run together to form even larger, deeper, swifter rivers of 
change that, in turn, flow into something still larger: the Third Wave. 

Like that young man who set out in mid-century to find the heart of the 
present, we now begin our search for the future. This search may be 
the most important of our lives. 


On August 8, 1960, a West Virginia-born chemical engineer named 
Monroe Rathbone, sitting in his office high over Rockefeller Plaza in 
Manhattan, made a decision that future historians might some day 
choose to symbolize the end of the Second Wave era. 

Few paid any attention that day when Rathbone, chief executive of the 
giant Exxon Corporation, took steps to cut back on the taxes Exxon 
paid to the oil-producing countries. His decision, though ignored by the 
Western press, struck like a thunderbolt at the governments of these 
countries, since virtually all their revenues derived from oil company 

Within a few days the other major oil companies had followed Exxon's 
lead. And one month later, on September 9, in the fabled city of 
Baghdad, delegates of the hardest-hit countries met in emergency 
council. Backed to the wall, they formed themselves into a committee 
of oil-exporting governments. For fully thirteen years the activities of 
this committee, and even its name, were ignored outside the pages of 
a few petroleum industry journals. Until 1973, that is, when the Yom 
Kippur War broke out and the Organization of Petroleum Exporting 
Countries suddenly stepped out of the shadows. Choking off the 
world's supply of crude oil, it sent the entire Second Wave economy 
into a shuddering down-spin. 

What OPEC did, apart from quadrupling its oil revenues, was to 
accelerate a revolution that was already brewing in ihe Second Wave 



In the earsplitting clamor over the energy crisis that has since followed, 
so many plans, proposals, arguments, and counterarguments have 
been hurled at us that it is difficult to make sensible choices. 
Governments are just as confused as the proverbial man in the street. 

One way to cut through the murk is to look beyond the individual 
technologies and policies to the principles underlying them. Once we 
do, we find that certain proposals are designed to maintain or extend 
the Second Wave energy base as we have known it, while others rest 
on new principles. The result is a radical clarification of the entire 
energy issue. 

The Second Wave energy base, we saw earlier, was premised on non- 
renewability; it drew from highly concentrated, exhaustible deposits; it 
relied on expensive, heavily centralized technologies; and it was 
nondiversified, resting on a relatively few sources and methods. These 
were the main features of the energy base in all Second Wave nations 
throughout the industrial era. 

Bearing these in mind, if we now look at the various plans and 
proposals generated by the oil crisis we can quickly tell which ones are 
mere extensions of the old and which are forerunners of something 
fundamentally new. And the basic question becomes not whether oil 
should sell at forty dollars per barrel or whether a nuclear reactor 
should rise at Sea-brook or Grohnde. The Tar|ger A |pstinn is whether 
apy A energy base designed for industrial society and premised on 
these Second Wave principles can survive. Once asked in frSTtoTfiT. 
the answer is inescapable. 

Through the past half-century, fully two thirds of the entire world's 
energy supply has come from oil and gas. Most observers today, from 
the most fanatic conservationists to the deposed Shah of Iran, from 
solar freaks and Saudi sheikhs to the button-down, briefcase-carrying 
experts of many governments, agree that this dependency on fossil 
fuel cannot continue indefinitely, no matter how many new oil fields are 

Statistics vary. Disputes rage over how long the world has before the 
ultimate crunch. The forecasting complexities are enormous and many 
past predictions now look silly. Yet one thing is clear: no one is 
pumping gas and oil back into the earth to replenish the supply. 

Whether the end comes in some climactic gurgle or, more 



likely, in a succession of dizzyingly destabilizing shortages, temporary 
gluts, and deeper shortages, the oil epoch is ead=. jigg. Iranians know 
this. Kuwaitis and Nigerians and Vene-IzueTans know it. Saudi 
Arabians know it — which is why they are racing to build an economy 
based on something other than oil revenues. Petroleum companies 
know it — which is why they are scrambling to diversify out of oil. (One 
president of a petroleum company told me at a dinner in Tokyo not 
long ago that, in his opinion, the oil giants would become industrial 
dinosaurs, as the railroads have. His time frame for this was 
breathtakingly short — years, not decades.) 

However, the debate over physical depletion is almost beside the 
point. For in today's world it is price, not physical supply, that has the 
most immediate and significant impact. And here, if anything, the facts 
point even more strongly to the same conclusion. 

In a matter of decades energy may once more become abundant and 
cheap as a result of startling technological breakthroughs or economic 
swings. But whatever happens, the relative price of oil is likely to 
continue its climb as we are forced to plumb deeper and deeper 
depths, to explore more remote regions, and to compete among more 
buyers. OPEC aside, an historic turn has taken place over the past five 
years: despite massive new discoveries like those in Mexico, despite 
skyrocketing prices, the actual amount of confirmed, commercially 
recoverable reserves of crude oil has shrunk, not grown — reversing a 
trend that had lasted for decades. Further evidence, if needed, that the 
petroholic era is screeching to a halt. 

Meanwhile, coal, which has supplied most of the remaining third of the 
world energy total, is in ample supply, though it, too, is ultimately 
depletable. Any massive expansion of coal usage, however, entails the 
spread of dirty air, a possible hazard to the world's climate (through an 
increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere), and a ravaging of the 
earth as well. Even if all these were accepted as necessary risks over 
the decades to come, coal cannot fit into the tank of an automobile nor 
carry out many other tasks now performed by oil or gas. Plants to 
gasify or liquefy coal require staggering amounts of capital and water 
(much of it needed for agriculture) and are so ultimately inefficient and 
costly that they, too, must be seen as no more than expensive, 
diversionary, and highly temporary expedients. Nuclear technology 
presents even more formidable prob- 



lems at its present stage of development. Conventional reactors rely 
on uranium, yet another exhaustible fuel, and carry safety risks that are 
extremely costly to overcome — if, indeed, they ever can be. No one 
has convincingly solved the problems of nuclear waste disposal, and 
nuclear costs are so high that until now government subsidies have 
been essential to make atomic power remotely competitive with other 

Fast breeder reactors are in a class by themselves. But while often 
presented to the uninformed public as perpetual motion machines 
because the plutonium they spew out can be used as a fuel, they, too, 
remain ultimately dependent upon the world's small and non- 
renewable supply of uranium. They are not only highly centralized, 
incredibly costly, volatile, and dangerous, they also escalate the risks 
of nuclear war and terrorist capture of nuclear materials. 

None of this means that we are going to be thrown back into the 
middle ages, or that further economic advance is impossible. But it 
surely means that we have reached the end of one line of development 
and must now start another. It means that the Second Wave energy 
base is unsustainable. 

Indeed, there is yet another, even more fundamental reason why the 
world must and will shift to a radically new energy base. For any 
energy base, whether in a village or an industrial economy, must be 
suited to the society's level of technology, the nature of production, the 
distribution of markets and population, and many other factors. 

The rise of the Second Wave energy base was associated with 
society's advance to a whole new stage of technological development. 
And while fossil fuels certainly accelerated technological growth, the 
exact reverse was also true. The invention of energy-thirsty, brute 
technology during the industrial era spurred the ever-more-rapid 
exploitation of those very fossil fuels. The development of the auto 
industry, for example, caused so radical an expansion of the oil 
business that at one time it was essentially a dependency of Detroit. In 
the words of Donald E. Carr, formerly an oil company research 
director, and author of Energy and the Earth Machine, the petroleum 
industry became "a slave to one form of internal combustion engine." 

Today we are once more at the edge of an historic technological leap, 
and the new system of production now emerging will require a radical 
restructuring of the entire energy business — even if OPEC were to fold 
its tent and quietly steal away. 


For the great overlooked fact is that the energy problem is not just one 
of quantity; it is one of structure as well. We not only need a certain 
amount of energy, but energy delivered in many more varied forms, in 
different (and changing) loca-tions, at different times of the day, night, 
and year, and for undreamed of purposes. 

This, not simply OPEC's pricing decisions, explains why the world must 
search for alternatives to the old energy system. That search has been 
accelerated, and we are now applying vast new resources of money 
and imagination to the problem. As a result we are taking a close look 
at many startling possibilities. While the shift from one energy base to 
the next will no doubt be darkened by economic and other upheavals, 
there is another, more positive aspect to it. For never in history have so 
many people plunged with such fervor into a search for energy — and 
never have we had so many novel and exciting potentials before us. 

It is clearly impossible to know at this stage which combination of 
technologies will prove most useful for what tasks, but the array of 
tools and fuels available to us will surely be staggering, with more and 
more exotic possibilities becoming commercially plausible as oil prices 

These possibilities range from photovoltaic-cells that convert sunlight 
into electricity (a technology now being explored by Texas Instruments, 
Solarex, Energy Conversion Devices, and many other companies), to a 
Soviet plan for placing windmill-carrying balloons in the tropopause to 
beam electricity down to earth through cables. New York City has 
contracted with a private firm to burn garbage as fuel and the 
Philippine Islands are building plants to produce electricity from 
coconut waste. Italy, Iceland, and New Zealand are already generating 
electricity from geothermal sources, tapping the heat of the earth itself, 
while a five-hundred-ton floating platform off Honshu island in Japan is 
generating electricity fron wave power. Solar heating units are 
sprouting from rooftops around the world, and the Southern California 
Edison Company is constructing a "power-tower" which will capture 
solar energy through computer-controlled mirrors, fo- 
cus it on a tower containing a steam boiler, and generate electricity for 
its regular customers. In Stuttgart, Germany, a hydrogen-powered bus 
built by Daimler-Benz has cruised I In-city streets, while engineers at 
Lockheed-Calif orn in are wmk ing on a hydrogen-powered aircraft. So 
many new avenues 

are being explored, they are impossible to catalog in a short space. 

When we combine new energy -generating technologies with new ways 
to store and transmit energy, the possibilities become even more far- 
reaching. General Motors has announced a new, more efficient 
automobile battery for use in electric cars. NASA researchers have 
come up with "Redox" — a storage system they believe can be 
produced for one third the cost of conventional lead acid batteries. 

With a longer time horizon we are exploring super-conductivity and 
even — beyond the fringes of "respectable" science — Tesla waves as 
ways of beaming energy with minimal loss. 

While most of these technologies are still in their early stages of 
development and many will no doubt prove zanily impractical, others 
are clearly on the edge of commercial application or will be within a 
decade or two. Most important is the neglected fact that big 
breakthroughs often come not from a single isolated technology but 
from imaginative juxta-positions or combinations of several. Thus we 
may see solar photovoltaics used to produce electricity which will, in 
turn, be used to release hydrogen from water so it can be used in cars. 
Today we are still at the pre-takeoff stage. Once we begin to combine 
these many new technologies, the number of more potent options will 
rise exponentially, and we will dramatically accelerate the construction 
of a Third Wave energy base. 

This new base will have characteristics sharply different from those of 
the Second Wave period. For much of its supply will come from 
renewable, rather than exhaustible sources. Instead of being 
dependent upon highly concentrated fuels, it will draw on a, variety of 

widely dispersed sources. Instead of depending so heavily on tightly 
centralized tech-nologies, it will combine both centralized and 
decentralized energy production. And instead of being dangerously 
over-reliant on a handful of methods or sources, it will be radically 
diversified in its form. This very diversity will make for less waste by 
allowing us to match the types and quality of energy produced to the 
increasingly varied needs. 

In short, we can now see for the first time the outlines of an energy 
base that runs on principles almost diametrically opposed to those of 
the recent, three-hundred-year past. It is also clear that this Third 
Wave energy base will not come into being without a bitter fight. 

In this war of ideas and money that is already raging in all 



the high-technology nations, it is possible to discern not two but three 
antagonists. To begin with, there are those with vested interests in the 
old, Second Wave energy base. They call for conventional energy 
sources and technologies — coal, oil, gas, nuclear power, and their 
various permutations. They fight, in effect, for an extension of the 
Second Wave status quo. And because they are entrenched in the oil 
companies, utilities, nuclear commissions, mining corporations, and 
their associated trade unions, the Second Wave forces seem unas- 
sailably in charge. 

By contrast, those who favor the advance to a Third Wave energy 
base — a combination of consumers, environmentalists, scientists, and 
entrepreneurs in the leading-edge industries, along with their various 
allies — seem scattered, underfinanced, and often politically inept. 
Second Wave propagandists regularly picture them as naive, 
unconcerned with dollar realities, and bedazzled by blue-sky 

Worse yet, the Third Wave advocates are publicly confused with a 
vocal fringe of what might best be termed First Wave forces — people 
who call not for an advance to a new, more intelligent, sustainable, and 
scientifically based energy system, but for a reversion to preindustrial 
past. In extreme form, 

their policies would eliminate most technology, restrict mobility, cause 
cities to shrivel and die, and impose an ascetic culture in the name of 

By lumping these two groups together the Second Wave lobbyists, 
public relations experts, and politicians deepen the public confusion 
and keep the Third Wave forces on the defensive. 

Nevertheless, supporters of neither First nor Second Wave policies 
can win in the end. The former are devoted to a fan- 
tasy, and the latter are attempting to maintain an energy base whose 
problems are intractable — in fact, insuperable. 

The relentlessly rising cost of Second Wave fuels works strongly 
against the Second Wave interests. The skyrocketing capital cost of 
Second Wave energy technologies works against them. The fact that 
Second Wave methods often require heavy inputs of energy to eke out 
relatively small increments of new "net" energy works against them. 

The escalating problems of pollution work against them. The nuclear 
risk works against them. The willingness of thousands in many 
countries to battle the police in order to stop nuclear reactors or strip 
mines or giant generating plants works njviinst them. The tremendous 
rising thirst of the non-indus- 



trial world for energy of its own, and for higher prices for its resources, 
works against them. 

In short, though nuclear reactors or coal gasification or liquefaction 
plants and other such technologies may seem to be advanced or 
futuristic and therefore progressive, they are, in fact, artifacts of a 
Second Wave past caught in its own deadly contradictions. Some may 
be necessary as temporary expedients, but they are essentially 
regressive. Similarly, though the forces of the Second Wave may seem 
powerful and their Third Wave critics feeble, it would be foolish to bet 
too many chips on the past. Indeed, the issue is not whether the 
Second Wave energy base will be overthrown, superseded by a new 
one, but how soon. For the struggle over energy is inextricably 
intertwined with another change of equal profundity: the overthrow of 
Second Wave technology. 


Coal, rail, textile, steel, auto, rubber, machine tool manufacture — these 
were the classical industries of the Second Wave. Based on essentially 
simple electromechanical principles, they used high energy inputs, 
spat out enormous waste and pollution, and were characterized by 
long production runs, low skill requirements, repetitive work, 
standardized goods, and heavily centralized controls. 

From the mid-1950's it became increasingly apparent that these 
industries were backward and waning in the industrial nations. In the 
United States, for example, while the labor force grew by 21 percent 
between 1965 and 1974, textile employment rose by only 6 percent 
and employment in iron and steel actually dropped 10 percent A similar 
pattern was evident in Sweden, Czechoslovakia, Japan, and other 
Second Wave nations. 

As these old-fashioned industries began to be transferred to so-called 
"developing" countries, where labor was cheaper and technology less 
advanced, their social influence also began to die out and a set of 
dynamic new industries shot up to take their place. 

These new industries differed markedly from their predecessors in 
several respects: they were no longer primarily electromechanichal 

and no longer based on the classic science of the Second Wave era. 
Instead, they rose from accelerating breakthroughs in a mix of 
scientific disciplines that were rudi- 



mentary or even nonexistent as recently as twenty-five years ago- 
quantum electronics, information theory, molecular biology, oceanics, 
nucleonics, ecology, and the space sciences. And they made it 
possible for us to reach beyond the grosser features of time and 
spacejwith which Second Wave industry concerned itself, to 
manipulate, as Soviet physicist B. G. Kuznetsov has noted, "very small 
spatial regions (say, of the radius of an atomic nucleus, i.e., 1(H3 
centimeters) and temporal intervals of the order of Kh23 seconds." 

It is from, these new sciences and our radically enhanced 
manipulative" abilities, that the new industries arose — computers and 
data processing, aerospace, sophisticated petrochemicals, 
semiconductors, advanced communications, and scores of others. 

In the United States, where this shift from Second Wave to Third Wave 
technologies began earliest — sometime in the mid-1 950's — old 
regions like the Merrimack Valley in New England sank into the status 
of depressed areas while places like Route 128 outside Boston or 
"Silicon Valley" in California zoomed into prominence, their suburban 
homes filled with specialists in solid-state physics, systems 
engineering, artificial intelligence, or polymer chemistry. 

Moreover, one could track the transfer of jobs and affluence as they 
followed the transfer of technology, so that the so-called "sun-belt" 
states, fed by heaw defense contracts, built an advanced technological 
base while the older industrial regions in the Northeast and around the 
Great Lakes plunged into lassitude and near-bankruptcy. The long 
running financial crisis of New York City was a clear reflection of this 
technological upheaval. So, too, was the stagnation of Lorraine, 
France's center of steelmaking. And so, at yet another level, was the 
failure of British socialism. Thus, at the end of World War II the Labour 
government spoke of seizing the "commanding heights" of industry and 
did so. But the commanding heights it nationalized turned out to be 
coal, rail, and steel — precisely those industries being by -passed by 
the technological revolution: yesterday's commanding heights. 

Regions or sectors of the economy based A n Third Wava 




languished., Thjit the changeover has hardly begun. Today many 
governments are consciously seeking to accelerate this structural shift 
while reducing the pains of transition. Japanese planners in MITI — the 
Ministry of International 



Trade and Industry — are studying new technologies to support the 
service industries of the future. West German Chancellor Helmut 
Schmidt and his advisers speak ofstruk-turpolitik and look to the 
European Investment Bank to facilitate the move out of traditional 
mass production industries. 

Today, fgiir rl notmrfi of rnlatriTjndustries areJ3oised for major growth 
and A jaEe A ikt AA tries of the TbinrTW0 A tra. bringing with them, once 

major shifts in economic power and in social and political alignments. 

Electronic imd r"ini"TI"i'i 1r-u*1y fojT" one such interrelated cluster. 

The electronics industry, a relative newcomer" on the world scene, now 
accounts for more than $100 billion in sales per year and is expected 
to hit $325 billion or even $400 billion by the late 1980's. This would 
make it the world's fourth largest industry, after steel, auto, and 
chemicals. The speed' with which computers have spread is so well 
known it hardly needs elaboration. Costs have dropped so sharply and 
capacity has risen so spectacularly that, according to Computer-world 
magazine, "If the auto industry had done what the computer industry 
has done in the last 30 years, a Rolls-Royce would cost $2.50 and get 
2,000,000 miles to the gallon." 

Today, cheap mini-computers are about to invade the American home. 
By June 1979 some one hundred companies were already 
manufacturing home computers. Giants like Texas Instruments were in 
the field, and chains like Sears and Montgomery Ward were on the 
edge of adding computers to their household wares. "Some day soon," 
chirruped a Dallas microcomputer retailer, "every home will have a 
computer. It will be as standard as a toilet." 

Linked to banks, stores, government offices, to neighbors' homes and 
to the workplace, such computers are destined to reshape not only 
business, from production to retailing, but the very nature of work and, 
indeed, even the structure of the family. 

Like the computer industry to which it is umbilically tied, the electronics 
industry has also been exploding, and consumers have been deluged 
with hand-held calculators, diode watches, and TV-screen games. 
These, however, provide only the palest hint of what lies in store: tiny, 
cheap climate and soil sensors in agriculture; infinitesimal medical 
devices built into ordinary clothing to monitor heartbeat or stress levels 



the wearer — these and a multitude of other applications of electronics 
lurk just beyond the present. 

The advance toward Third Wave industries, moreover, will be radically 
accelerated by the energy crisis, inasmuch as many of them carry us 
toward processes and products that are miserly in their energy 
requirements. Second Wave telephone systems, for example, required 
virtual copper mines beneath the city streets — endless miles of snaking 
cable, conduit, relays, and switches. We are now about to convert to 
fiber optic systems that use hair-thin light-carrying fibers to convey 
messages. The energy implications of this switchover are staggering: it 
takes about one thousandth the energy to manufacture optical fiber 
that it took to dig, smelt, and process an equivalent length of copper 
wire. The same ton of coal required to produce 90 miles of copper wire 
can turn out 80,000 miles of fiber! 

The shift to solid-state physics in electronics moves in the same 
direction, each step forward producing components that require 
smaller and smaller inputs of energy. At IBM, the latest developments 
in L.S.I. (Large Scale Integration) technology involve components that 
are activated by as little as fifty microwatts. 

This characteristic of the electronic revolution suggests that one of the 
most powerful conservation strategies for energy -starved high- 
technology economies may well be the rapid sub-stitution of low- 
energy Third Wave industries for energy- 

wasting Second Wave industries. 

More generally, the journal Science is correct when it states that "the 
country's economic activity may be substantially altered" by the 
electronics explosion. "Indeed, it is probable that reality will outstrip 
fiction in the rate of introduction of new and often unexpected 
applications of electronics." 

The electronics explosion, however, is only one step in the direction of 
an entirely new techno-sphere. 


Much the same might be said of our ventures into outer space and the 
oceans, where our leap beyond the classic lech nologies of the Second 
Wave is even more striking. 

The space industry forms a second cluster in the emerging 


techno-sphere. Despite delays, five space shuttles may soon be 
moving cargo and people back and forth between the earth and outer 
space on a weekly schedule. The impact of this is as yet 
underestimated by the public, but many companies in the United 
States and Europe regard the "high frontier" as the source of the next 
revolution in high technology and are acting accordingly. 

Grumman and Boeing are working on satellites and space platforms 
for energy generation. According to Business Week, "Another group of 
industries only now is beginning to understand what the orbiter may 
mean to them — manufacturers and processors whose products range 
from semi-conductors to medicines. . . . Many high-technology 
materials require delicate, controlled handling, and the force of gravity 
can be a nuisance. ... In space, there is no gravity to worry about, no 
need for containers, and no problem with handling poisons or highly 
reactive substances. And there is a limitless supply of vacuum, as well 
as super-high and super-low temperatures." 

As a result, "space manufacturing" has become a hot topic among 
scientists, engineers, and high-technology executives." McDonnell 
Douglas offers to pharmaceutical companies "a space shuttle device 
that will separate rare enzymes from human cells. Glass 
manufacturers are looking at ways of making materials for lasers and 
fiber optics in space. Space-produced single-crystal semiconductors 
make earth-made models seem primitive. Urokinase, a blood clot dis- 
solver needed for patients suffering from certain forms of blood 
disease, now costs $2,500 per dose. According to Jesco von 
Puttkamer, chief of space industrialization studies for NASA, it could be 
manufactured in space for less than one fifth that amount. 

More important are the totally new products that simply cannot be 
made on earth at virtually any price. TRW, an aerospace and 
electronics company, has identified four hundred different alloys that 
we cannot manufacture on earth because of the pull of gravity. General 
Electric, meanwhile, has begun the design of a space furnace. 
Daimler-Benz and M.A.N. in West Germany are interested in the space 
manufacture of ball bearings, and the European Space Agency and 
individual companies like British Aircraft Corporation are also designing 
equipment and products aimed at making space useful commercially. 
Business Week tells its readers 


that "such prospects are not science fiction and a growing number of 
companies are deadly serious in pursuing them." Equally serious, and 
even more zealous, are the supporters of Dr. Gerard O'Neill's plan for 
the creation of space cities. O'Neill, a Princeton physicist, has been 
indefatigably educating the public about the possibilities of building 
very large scale communities in space — platforms or islands with 
populations in the thousands — and has won enthusiastic support from 
NASA, the governor of California (whose state economy is heavily 
space dependent) and, more surprisingly, from a band of vocal ex- 
hippies led by Stewart Brand, creator of the Whole Earth Catalog. 

O'Neill's idea is to build a city in space, bit by bit, out of materials 
mined on the moon or elsewhere in space. A colleague, Dr. Brian 
O'Leary, has been studying the possibilities of mining the Apollo and 
Amor asteroids. Regular conferences at Princeton bring together 
experts from NASA, General Electric, U.S. energy agencies, and other 
interested parties to swap technical papers on the chemical processing 
of lunar and other extraterrestrial minerals and on the design and 
construction of space habitats and closed ecological systems. 

The combination of advanced electronics and a space pro-gram that 
moves beyond terrestrial production possibilities carries the techno- 
sphere to a new stage, no longer limited by Second Wave 
considerations. A — • 


The push into the depths of the sea provides us with a mirror image of 
the drive into outer space, and lays the basis for the third cluster of 
industries likely to form a major part of the new techno-sphere. The 
first historic wave of social change on earth came when our ancestors 
ceased to rely on foraging and hunting, and began instead to 
domesticate animals and cultivate the soil. We are now at precisely 
this stage in our relationship to the seas. 

In a hungry world,, the ocean can help break the back of the food 
problem. Properly farmed and ranched, it offers us a virtually endless 
supply of desperately needed protein. Present-day commercial fishing, 
which is highly industrial-ized — Japanese and Soviet factory-ships 
sweep the seas — 


results in ruthless overkill and threatens the total extinction of many 
forms of marine life. By contrast, intelligent "aquacul-ture" — fish 
farming and herding, along with plant harvesting — could make a major 
dent in the global food crisis without damaging the fragile biosphere 
upon which all our lives depend. 

The rush to offshore oil drilling, meanwhile, has obscured the 
possibility of "growing oil" in the sea. Dr. Lawrence Raymond at the 
Battelle Memorial Institute has demonstrated that it is possible to 
produce algae with a high oil content, and efforts are under way to 
make the process economically effective. 

The oceans also offer an overwhehning array of minerals, from copper, 
zinc, and tin, to silver, gold, platinum and, even more important, 
phosphate ores from which to produce fertilizer for land-based 
agriculture. Mining companies are eyeing the hot waters of the Red 
Sea which hold an estimated $3.4 billion worth of zinc, silver, copper, 
lead, and gold. About 100 companies, including some of the world's 
largest, are now preparing to mine potato-shaped manganese nodules 
from the sea bed. (These nodules are a renewable resource, forming 
at the rate of six to ten million tons per year in a single well-identified 
belt just south of Hawaii.) 

Today four truly international consortia are gearing up to start ocean 
mining on a multibillion dollar scale hi the mid-19 80's. One such 
consortium brings together twenty-three Japanese companies, a West 
German group called AMR, and the U.S. subsidiary of Canada's 
International Nickel. A second links Union Miniere, the Belgian 
company, with United States Steel and the Sun Company. The third 
venture unites Canada's Noranda interests with Mitsubishi of Japan, 
Rio TintoZinc, and Consolidated Gold Fields of the United Kingdom. 
The last consortium ties Lockheed to the Royal Dutch/Shell group. 

These efforts, says the Financial Times of London, are expected to 
"revolutionise world mining activities for selected minerals." 

In addition, Hoffmann-La Roche, the pharmaceutical company, has 
been quietly scouring the seas for new drugs, such as antifungal 
agents and pain-killers or diagnostic aids and drugs that stop bleeding. 

As these technologies develop we are likely to witness the construction 
of semi- or 'even wholly submerged "aquavil-lages" and floating 
factories. The combination of zero real estate costs (at least at 
present) plus cheap energy produced on 



the spot from ocean sources (wind, thermal currents, or tides) can 
make this kind of construction competitive with that on land. 

The technical journal Marine Policy concludes that "Ocean floating 
platform technology appears to be inexpensive enough and simple 
enough to be within the reach of most nations of the world, as well as 
numerous companies and private groups. At present, it seems likely 
that the first floating cities will be built by crowded industrial societies 
for the purpose of offshore housing. . . . Multinational corporations may 
see them as mobile terminals for trade activities, or as factory ships. 
Food companies may build floating cities to carry out mariculture 
operations. . . . Corporations seeking tax havens and adventurers 
seeking new lifestyles may build floating cities and declare them to be 
new states. Floating cities may achieve formal diplomatic recognition ... 
or become a vehicle for ethnic minorities to achieve their 

Technological progress associated with the construction of thousands 
of offshore oil rigs, some anchored to the bottom but many positioned 
dynamically with propellers, ballast, and buoyancy controls, are 
developing very rapidly and laying the basis for the floating city and 
enormous new supporting industries. 

Overall, the commercial reasons for moving into the sea are multiplying 
so swiftly that, according to economist D. M. Leipziger, many large 
corporations today, "like homesteaders in the Old West, are queuing 
up waiting for the starter's pistol to stake out large areas of the ocean 
floor." This also explains why the non-industrial countries are fighting to 
guarantee that-the resources of the oceans become the common 
heritage of the human race rather than of the rich nations alone. 

If we see these various developments not as independent of one 
another but as interlinked and self-reinforcing, each technological or 
scientific advance accelerating others, it becomes clear that we are no 
longer dealing with the same level of technology on which the Second 
Wave was based. We are on the way to a radically new energy system 
and a radically new technological system'. 

But even these examples are small in comparison with the techno- 
quake now rumbling in our molecular biology laboratories. Biological 
industry will form the fourth cluster of in- 



dustries in tomorrow's economy, and may have the heaviest impact of 


With information on genetics doubling every two years, with the gene 
mechanics working overtime, New Scientist magazine reports that 
"genetic engineering has been going through an essential tooling up 
phase; it is now ready to go into business." The distinguished science 
commentator, Lord Ritchie-Calder, explains that "Just as we have 
manipulated plastics and metals, we are now manufacturing living 

Major companies are already in hot pursuit of commercial applications 
of the new biology. They dream of placing enzymes in the automobile 
to monitor exhaust and send data on pollution to a microprocessor that 
will then adjust the engine. They speak of what The New York Times 
calls "metal-hungry microbes that might be used to mine valuable trace 
metals from ocean water." They have already demanded and won the 
right to patent new life forms. Eli Lilly, Hoffmann-La Roche, G. D. 
Searle, Upjohn, and Merck, not to mention General Electric, are all in 
the race. 

Nervous critics, including many scientists, justifiably worry that there is 
a race at all. They conjure up images not of oil spills, but of "microbe 
spills" that could spread disease and decimate entire populations. The 
creation and accidental release of virulent microbes, however, is only 
one cause for alarm. Completely sober and respectable scientists are 
talking about possibilities that stagger the imagination. 

Should we breed people with cowlike stomachs so they can digest 
grass and hay — thereby alleviating the food problem by 

* In Future Shock, where I originally touched on some of these matters 
many years ago, I suggested that we would eventually be able to "pre- 
design" the human body, "grow machines," chemically program the 
brain, make identical carbon copies of ourselves through cloning, and 
create wholly new and dangerous life-forms. "Who shall control 
research into these fields?" I asked. "How shall the new findings be 
applied? Might we not unleash horrors for which man is totally 

Some readers thought the forecast farfetched. That, however, was 
before 1973 and the discovery of the recombinant DNA process. 

Today the same anguished questions are being asked by citizen 
protesters, congressional committees, and by scientists themselves as 
the biological revolution gains runaway speed. 



modifying us to eat lower down on the food chain? Should we 
biologically alter workers to fit job requirements — for example, creating 
pilots with faster reaction times or assembly-line workers neurologically 
designed to do our monotonous work for us? Should we attempt to 
eliminate "inferior" people and breed a "super-race"? (Hitler tried this, 
but without the genetic weaponry that may soon issue from our 
laboratories.) Should we clone soldiers to do dur fighting? Should we 
use genetic forecasting to pre-eliminate "unfit" babies? Should we 
grow reserve organs for ourselves — each of us having, as it were, a 
"savings bank" full of spare kidneys, livers, or lungs? 

Wild as these notions may sound, every one has its advocates (and 
adversaries) in the scientific community as well as its striking 
commercial applications. As two critics of genetic engineering, Jeremy 
Rifkin and Ted Howard, state in their book Who Should Play God?, 
"Broad scale genetic engineering will probably be introduced to 
America much the same way as assembly lines, automobiles, 
vaccines, computers and all the other technologies. As each new 
genetic advance becomes commercially practical, a new consumer 
need . . . will be exploited and a market for the new technology will be 
created." The potential applications are myriad. 

The new biology, for example, could potentially help solve the energy 
problem. Scientists are now studying the idea of utilizing bacteria 
capable of converting sunlight into electrochemical energy. They speak 
of "biological solar cells." Could we breed life forms to replace nuclear 
power plants? And if so, might we substitute the danger of a bioactive 
release for the danger of radioactive release? 

In the field of health, many diseases now untreatable will no doubt be 
cured or prevented — and new ones, perhaps worse, introduced 
through inadvertence or even malice. (Think what a profit-hungry 
company could do if it developed and secretly spread some new 
disease for which it alone had the cure. Even a mild, coldlike ailment 
could create a massive market for the appropriate, monopolistically 
controlled cure.) 

According to the president of Cetus, a California company to which 
many world-famous geneticists are commercially linked, "biology will 
replace chemistry in importance" in the next thirty years. And in 
Moscow an official policy statement urges "the wider use of micro- 
organisms in the national economy. . .." 


Biology will reduce or eliminate the need for oil in the production of 
plastics, fertilizer, clothes, paint, pesticides, and thousands of other 
products. It will sharply alter the production of wood, wool, and other 
"natural" goods. Companies like United States Steel, Fiat, Hitachi, 
ASEA, or IBM will undoubtedly have their own biology divisions as we 
begin to shift, over time, from manufacture to "biofacture," giving rise to 
a range of products unimaginable until now. Says Theodore J. Gordon, 

the head of The Futures Group, "In biology, once we get started, well 
have to think about things like . . . can you make a tissue-compatible 
shirt' or a 'mammary mattress' — created out of the same stuff as the 
human breast." 

Long before then, hi agriculture, genetic engineering will be employed 
to increase the world food supply. The much-publicized Green 
Revolution of the 1960's proved, in large measure, a colossal trap for 
farmers hi the First Wave world because it required enormous inputs of 
petroleum-based fertilizer that had to be bought abroad. The next bio- 
agricultural revolution aims at reducing that dependence on artificial 
fertilizer. Genetic engineering points toward high-yielding crops, crops 
that grow well in sandy or salty soil, crops that fight off pests. It also 
seeks to create entirely new foods and fibers, along with simpler, 
cheaper, energy -conserving methods for storing and processing foods. 
As though to balance off some of its awesome peril, genetic 
engineering once more holds out for us the possibility of ending 
widespread famine. 

One must remain skeptical of these glowing promises. Yet if some of 
the advocates of genetic farming are half right, the impact on 
agriculture could be tremendous, ultimately altering, among other 
things, relations between the poor countries and the rich. The Green 
Revolution made the poor more, not less, dependent on the rich. The 
bio-agricultural revolution could do the reverse. 

It is too early to say with confidence how biotechnology will develop. 
But it is too late to turn back to zero. We cannot undiscover what we 
know. We can only fight to control its application, to prevent hasty 
exploitation, to transoational-ize it, and to minimize corporate, national, 
and interscientific rivalry in the entire field before it is too late. 

One thing is immutably clear: we are no longer locked into the three- 
hundred-year-old electromechanical frame of traditional Second Wave 
technology, and can only begin to glimpse the full significance of this 
historic fact. 


Just as the Second Wave combined coal, steel, electricity, and rail 
transport to produce automobiles and a thousand other life- 
transforming products, the real impact of the new changes will not be 
felt until we reach the stage of combining the new technologies — 
linking together computers, electronic new materials from outer space 
and the oceans, with ge- 
netics, and allot these, in turn, with the new energy base. Bringing 
these elements together will release a flood of innovation unlike any 
seen before in human history. We are constructing a dramatically new 
techno-sphere for a Third Wave-civilization. 


The magnitude of such an advance — its importance for the future of 
evolution itself— makes it critically necessary that we begin to guide it. 
To adopt a hands-off, damn-the-tor-pedoes approach could spell doom 

for ourselves and our children. For the power, scale, and speed of the 
change is like nothing before in history, and our minds are still fresh 
with news of the near-catastrophe at Three Mile Island, the tragic DC- 
10 crashes, the hard-to-plug massive oil spill off the Mexican coast, 
and a hundred other technological horrors. Faced with such disasters, 
can we permit the development and combination of tomorrow's even 
more powerful technologies to be controlled by the same shortsighted 
and selfish criteria used during the Second Wave era? 

The basic questions asked of new technologies during the past three 
hundred years, in both capitalist and socialist nation's, have been 
simple: do they contribute to economic gain or military clout? These 
twin criteria are clearly no longer adequate. New technologies will have 
to pass far stiffer tests — ecological and social as well as economic 
and strategic. 

When we look closely at what a report to the U.S. Na-tional Science 
Foundation has called "technology and social shock" — a catalog of 
technological calamities in recent years — we discover that most of 
them are associated with Second Wave, not Third Wave technologies. 
The reason is obvious: Third Wave technologies have not yet been 
deployed on a grand scale. Many are still in their infancy. 

Nevertheless, we can already glimpse the dangers of electronic smog, 
information pollution, combat in outer space, genetic leakage, climatic 
intervention, and what might be called "eco- 



logical warfare" — the deliberate induction of earthquakes, for example, 
by triggering vibrations from a distance. Beyond this lies a host of other 
perils associated with the advance to a new technological base. 

Under these circumstances it is no surprise that recent years have 
seen massive, almost indiscriminate, public resistance to new 
technology. The early period of the Secotid Wave also saw attempts to 
block new technology. As early as 1663, London workers tore down 
the new mechanical sawmills that threatened their livelihood. In 1676 
ribbon workers smashed their machines. In 1710 rioters protested the 
newly introduced stocking frames. Later, John Kay, inventor of the 
flying shuttle used in the textile mills, saw his home wrecked by an 
infuriated mob and ultimately fled England altogether. The most 
publicized example came in 1811 when machine wreckers calling 
themselves Luddites destroyed their textile machines in Nottingham. 

Yet this early antagonism to the machine was sporadic and 
spontaneous. As one historian notes, many of the cases "were not so 
much the result of hostility to the machine itself as a method of 
coercing an obnoxious employer." Unlettered workingmen and women, 
poor, hungry, and desperate, saw in the machine a threat to their 
individual survival. 

Today's rebellion against runaway technology is different. It involves a 
fast-growing army of people — by no means poor or unlettered — who 
are not necessarily anti-technological, or opposed to economic growth, 

but who see in the uncontrolled technological thrust a threat to 
themselves and to global survival. 

Some fanatics among them, given the chance, might well employ 
Luddite tactics. It doesn't take much to imagine the bombing of a 
computer installation or a genetic laboratory or a partially constructed 
nuclear reactor. One can even more easily picture some particularly 
hideous technological disaster triggering a witch-hunt for the white- 
coated scientists who "caused it all." Some demagogic politician of the 
future may well rise to fame by investigating the "Cambridge Ten" or 
the "Oak Ridge Seven." 

However, most of today's techno-rebels are neither bomb-throwers nor 
Luddites. They include thousands of people who are themselves 
scientifically trained — nuclear engineers, bio-chemist, physicians, 
public health officials, and geneticists as well as millions of ordinary 
citizens. Again, unlike the Luddites, they are well organized and 
articulate. They publish 

their own technical journals and propaganda. They file law-suits and 
draft legislation, as well as picket, march, and demonstrate. 

This movement, often attacked as reactionary, is actually a 

vital part of the emerging Third Wave. For its members are the leading 
edge of the future in a three-way political and economic battle that 
parallels, in the field of technnology, the 

struggle over energy that we have described earlier. 

Here, too, we see Second Wave forces on one side, First Wave 
reversionists on the other, and Third Wave forces struggling against 
both. Here the Second Wave forces are those who favor the old, 
mindless approach to technology: ""If it works, produce it. It it sells, 
produce it. If it makes us strong, build it." Imbued with obsolete, indust- 
real notions of progress, many of these adherents of the Second Wave 
past have vested interests in the irresponsible application of 
technology. They shrug off the dangers. 

On the other side, we find once more a small, vocal fringe of romantic 
extremists hostile to all but the most primitive First Wave technologies, 
who seem to favor a return to medieval crafts and hand labor. Mostly 
middle-class, speaking from the vantage point of a full belly, their 
resistance to technological advance is as blindly indiscriminate as the 
support of technology by Second Wave people. They fantasize about a 
return to a world that most of us — and most of them — would find 

Ranged against both these extremes is an increasing number of 
people in every country who form the core of the techno-rebellion. 

They are, without knowing it, agents of the Third Wave. They begin not 
with technology but with hard questions about what kind of future 
society want. They recognize that we now have so many technological 
opportunities we can no longer fund, develop, and apply them all. They 
argue, therefore, the need to select more carefully among them and to 

choose those technologies that serve long-range social and ecological 
goals. Rather than letting 

technology shape our goals, they wish to assert social control 

over the larger directions of the technological thrust. 

The techno-rebels have not as yet formulated a clear, comprehensive 
program. But if we extrapolate from their numer ous manifestos, 
petitions, statements, and studies, we can identify several streams of 
thought that add up to a new way of looking at technology — a positive 
policy for managing the transition to a Third Wave future. 



The techno-rebels start from the premise that the earth's biosphere is 
fragile, and that the more powerful our new technologies become, the 
higher the risk of doing irreversible damage to the planet. Thus they 
demand that all new technologies be prescreened for possible adverse 
effects, that dangerous ones be redesigned or actually blocked — in 
short, that tomorrow's technologies be subjected to tighter ecological 
consTraints tnan ffioyTof the Second Wave era. 

The techno-rebels argue that either we control technology or it controls 
us — and that "we" can no longer simply be the usual tiny elite of 
scientists, engineers, politicians, and businessmen. Whatever the 
merits of the antinuclear campaigns that have erupted in West 
Germany, France, Sweden, Japan, and the United States, the battle 
against Concorde, or the rising demands for regulation of genetic 
research, all reflect a widespread passionate demand for the 
democratization of technological decision-making. 

The techno-rebels contend that technology need not be big, costly, or 
complex in order to be "sophisticated." The heavy-handed 
technologies of the Second Wave seemed more efficient than they 
actually were because corporations and socialist enterprises 
externalized — transferred to society as a whole — the enormous costs 
of cleaning up pollution, of caring for the unemployed, or dealing with 
work-alienation. When these are seen as costs of production, many 
seemingly efficient machines turn out to be quite the opposite. 

Thus the techno-rebels favor the design of a whole range of 
"appropriate technologies" intended to provide humane jobs, to avoid 
pollution, to spare the environment and to produce for personal or local 
use rather than for national and global markets alone. The techno- 
rebellion has sparked thousands of experiments all over the world, with 
just such small-scale technologies, in fields ranging from fish farming 
and food processing to energy production, waste recycling, cheap 
construction, and simple transport. 

While many of these experiments are naive and hark back to a 
mythical past, others are more practical. Some reach out for the latest 
materials and scientific tools and combine them in new ways with old 
techniques. Jean Gimpel, for example, the historian of medieval 

technology, has built elegant models of simple tools that might prove 
useful in non-industrial countries. Some of these combine new 
materials with old methods. A surge of interest in the airship provides 
another example — use of a by -passed technology that can now be 



made with advanced fabrics or materials that give it much greater 
payload capacity. Airships are ecologically sound and could be used 
for slow but cheap and safe transport in regions where there are no 
roads — Brazil, perhaps, or Nigeria. Experiments with appropriate or 
alternative technologies, especially in the energy field, suggest that 
some simple, small-scale technologies can be as "sophisticated" as 
complex, large-scale technologies when the full range of side effects is 
taken into account and when the machine is properly matched to the 

The techno-rebels are also disturbed by the radical imbalance of 
science and technology on the face of the planet, with only 3 percent of 
the world's scientists in countries containing 75 percent of the global 
population. They favor devoting more technological attention to the 
needs of the world's poor, and a more equitable sharing of the 
resources of outer space and the oceans. They recognize that not only 
are the oceans and skies part of the common heritage of the race, but 
that advanced technology itself could not exist without the historic 
contributions of many peoples, from the Indians and Arabs to the 
ancient Chinese. 

Finally, they argue that in moving into the Third Wave we must 
advance, step by step, from the resource-wasteful, pollution-producing 
system of production used during the Second Wave era toward a more 
"metabolic" system that eliminates waste and pollution by making sure 
that the output and byproduct of each industry becomes an input for 
the next. The goal is a system under which no output is produced that 
is not an input for another production process downstream. Such a 
system is not only more efficient in a production sense, it minimizes, or 
indeed, eliminates, damage to the bio-sphere. 

Taken as a whole, this techno-rebel program provides the 

basis for humanizing the technological thrust. 

The techno-rebels are, whether they recognize it or not, agents of the 
Third Wave. They will not vanish but multiply in the years ahead. For 
they are as much a part of the advance to a new stage of civilization as 
our missions to Venus, our amazing computers, our biological 
discoveries, or our explorations of the oceanic depths. 

Out of their conflict with the First Wave fantasizers and the Second 
Wave advocates of technology uber alles will come sensible 
technologies matched to the new, sustainable energy system toward 
which we are beginning to reach. Plug- 


ging the new technologies into this new energy base will raise to a 
wholly new level our entire civilization. At its heart we will find a fusion 
of sophisticated, science-based "high stream" industries, operating 
within much tightened ecological and social controls, with equally 
sophisticated, "low-stream" industries that operate on a smaller, more 
human scale, both based on principles radically different from those 
which governed the Second Wave techno-sphere. Together, these two 
layers of industry will form tomorrow's "commanding heights." 

But this is only a detail of a much vaster picture. For at the same time 
that we are transforming the techno-sphere we are also revolutionizing 
the info-sphere. 


The espionage agent is one of the most powerful metaphors of our 
time. No other figure has so successfully captured the contemporary 
imagination. Films by the hundred glorify 007 and his brash fictional 
counterparts. Television and paperbacks churn out endless images of 
the spy as daring, romantic, amoral, larger (or smaller) than life. 
Governments, meanwhile, spend billions on espionage. Agents of the 
KGB, the CIA, and a score of other intelligence agencies trip over one 
another from Berlin to Beirut, from Macao to Mexico City. 

In Moscow, western correspondents are accused of spying. In Bonn, 
chancellors fall because spies infest their ministries. In Washington, 
congressional investigators simultaneously expose the misdeeds of 
secret agents, American and Korean, while above, the sky itself is 
rilled with spy satellites apparently photographing every inch of the 

The spy is hardly new to history. It is worth asking, therefore, why at 
this particular moment the theme of espionage has come to dominate 
the popular imagination, throwing even private eyes, cops, and 
cowboys into the shadow. When we do ask, we immediately notice one 
important difference between the spy and these other culture heroes: 
While fictional policemen and cowboys rely on mere pistols or their 
bare fists, the fictional spy comes equipped with the latest, most exotic 
technology — electronic bugs, banks of computers, infrared cameras, 
cars that fly or swim, helicopters, one-man submarines, death rays, 
and the like. 

There is, however, a deeper reason for the rise of the spy, 


Cowboys, cops, private eyes, adventurers, and explorers — the 
traditional heroes of print and celluloid — typically pursue the tangible: 
they want land for cattle, they want money, they want to capture the 
crook or gain the girl. Not so the spy. For the spy's basic business is 
informalion — and information has become perhaps the world's fastest 
growing and most important business. The spy is a living symbol of the 
revolution now sweeping the info-sphere. 


An information bomb is exploding in our midst, showering us with a 
shrapnel of images and drastically changing the way each of us 
perceives and acts upon our private world. In shifting from a Second 
Wave to a Third Wave info-sphere, we are transforming our own 

Each of us creates in his skull a mind-model of reality — a warehouse of 
images. Some of these are visual, others auditory, even tactile. Some 
are only "percepts" — traces of information about our environment, like 
a glimpse' of blue sky seen from the corner of the eye. Others are 
"linkages" that define relationships, like the two words "mother" and 
child." Some are simple, others complex and conceptual, like the idea 
that "inflation is caused by rising wages." Together such images add 
up to our picture of the world — locating us in time, space, and the 
network of personal relationships around us. 

These images do not spring from nowhere. They are formed, in ways 
we do not understand, out of the signals or information reaching us 
from the environment. And as our environment convulses with 
change — as our jobs, homes, churches, schools, and political 
arrangements feel the impact of the Third Wave — the sea of 
information around us also changes. 

Before the advent of mass media, a First Wave child growing up in a 
slowly changing village built his or her model of reality out of images 
received from a tiny handful of sources — the teacher, the priest, the 
chief or official and, above all, the family. As psychologist-futurist 
Herbert Gerr juoy has noted: "There was no television or radio in the 
home to give the child a chance to meet many different kinds of 
strangers from many different walks of life and even from different 
countries. . . . Very few people ever saw a foreign 



city. . . . The result [was that] people had only a small number of 
different people to imitate or model themselves after, 

"Their choices were even more limited by the fact that the people they 
could model themselves after were themselves all of limited 
experience with other people." The images of the world built up by the 
village child, therefore, were extremely narrow in range. 

The messages he or she received, moreover, were highly redundant in 
at least two senses: they came, usually, in the form of casual speech, 
which is normally filled with pauses and repetitions, and they came in 
the form of connected "strings" of ideas reinforced by various 
information givers. The child heard the same "thou shalt nots" in 
church and in school. Both reinforced the messages sent out by the 
family and the state. Consensus in the community, and strong 
pressures for conformity, acted on the child from birth to narrow still 
further the range of acceptable imagery and behavior. 

The Second Wave multiplied the number of channels from which the 
individual drew his or her picture of reality. The child no longer 
received imagery from nature or people alone but from newspapers, 
mass magazines, radio and, later on, from television. For the most 
part, church, state, home, and school continued to speak hi unison, 
reinforcing one another. But now the mass media themselves became 
a giant loudspeaker. And their power was used across regional, ethnic, 
tribal, and linguistic lines to standardize the images flowing in society's 

Certain visual images, for example, were so widely mass-distributed 
and were implanted in so many millions of private memories that they 
were transformed, in effect, into icons. The image of Lenin, jaw thrust 
out in triumph under a swirling red flag, thus became as iconic for 
millions of people as the image of Jesus on the cross. The image of 
Charlie Chaplin with derby and cane, or Hitler raging at Nuremberg, 
the image of bodies stacked like cords of wood at Buchen-wald, of 
Churchill making the V sign or Roosevelt wearing a black cape, of 
Marilyn Monroe's skirt blown by the wind, of hundreds of media stars 
and thousands of different, universally recognizable commercial 
products — the bar of Ivory soap in the United States, the Morinaga 
chocolate in Japan, the bottle of Perrier in France — all became 
standard parts of a universal image-file. 


This centrally produced imagery, injected into the "mass mind” by the 
mass media; helped produce the standardization of behavior required 
by the Industrial production system. 

Today the Third Wave is drastically altering all this. As change 
accelerates in society it forces a parallel acceleration within us. New 
information reaches us and we are forced to revise our image-file 
continuously at a faster and faster rate. Older images based on past 
reality must be replaced, for, unless we update them, our actions 
become divorced from reality and we become progressively less 
competent. We find it impossible to cope. 

This speedup of image processing inside «s means that images grow 
mqre and more A empnrary A Thrnwawav art, one-shot sitcoms, Polaroid 
snapshots, Xerox copies, and disposable graphics pop up and vanish. 
Ideas, beliefs, and attitudes skyrocket into consciousness, are 
challenged, defied, and suddenly fade into nowhere-ness; Scientific 
and psychological theories are overthrown and superseded daily. 
Ideologies crack. Celebrities pirouette fleetingly across our awareness. 
Contradictory political and moral slogans assail us. 

It is difficult to make sense of this swirling phantasmagoria, to 
understand exactly how the image-manufacturing process is changing. 
For the Third Wave does more than simply accelerate our information 
flows: it transforms the deep structure of information on which our daily 
actions depend. 


Throughout the Second Wave era the mass media grew more and 
more powerful. Today a startling change is taking place. As the Third 
Wave thunders in, the mass media, far from expanding their influence, 
are suddenly being forced to share it. They are being beaten back on 
many fronts at once by what I call the "de-massified media." 

Newspapers provide the first example. The oldest of the Second 
Wave'mass media, newspapers are losing their readers. By 1973 U.S. 
newspapers had reached a combined aggregate circulation of 63 
million copies daily. Since 1973, however, instead of adding circulation, 
they have begun to lose it. By 1978 the total had declined to 62 million 
and worse was in store. The percentage of Americans who read a 
paper every day also fell, from 69 percent in 1972 to 62 per- 



cent in 1977, and some of the nation's most important papers were the 
hardest hit. In New York, between 1970 and 1976, the three major 
dailies combined lost 550,000 readers. The Los Angeles Times, having 
peaked in 1973, went on to lose 80,000 readers by 1976. The two big 
Philadelphia papers dropped 150,000 readers, the two big Cleveland 
papers 90,-000 and the two San Francisco papers more than 80,000. 
While numerous smaller papers cropped up in many parts of the 
country, major U.S. dailies like the Cleveland News, the Hartford 
Times, the Detroit Times, Chicago Today, or the Long Island Press all 
fell by the wayside. A similar pattern appeared in Britain where, 
between 1965 and 1975, the national dailies lost fully 8 percent of their 

Nor were such losses due merely to the rise of television. Each of 
today's mass-circulation dailies now faces increasing competition from 
a burgeoning flock of mini-circulation weeklies, biweeklies, and so- 
called "shoppers" that serve not the metropolitan mass market but 
specific neighborhoods and communities within it, providing far more 
localized advertising and news. Having reached saturation, the big-city 
mass-circulation daily is in deep trouble. De-massified media are 
snapping at its heels.* 

Mass magazines offer a second example. From the mid-1950's on, 
hardly a year has passed without the death in the United States of a 
major magazine. Life, Look, the Saturday Evening Post — each went to 
its grave, later to undergo resurrection as a small-circulation ghost of 
its former self. 

Between 1970 and 1977, despite a 14 million rise in U.S. population, 
the combined aggregate circulation of the remaining top twenty-five 
magazines dropped by 4 million. 

Simultaneously, the United States experienced a population explosion 
of mini-magazines — thousands of brand new magazines aimed at 
small, special-interest, regional, or even local markets. Pilots and 
aviation buffs today can choose among literally scores of periodicals 
edited just for them. Teen-agers, 

* Some publishers do not consider newspapers to be mass media 
because many have small circulations and serve small communities. 

But most papers, at least in the United States, are filled with nationally 
produced "boilerplate" — news from the AP and UPI wires, comic strips, 
crosswords, fashions, feature articles — which are largely the same 
from one city to the next. To compete with the smaller, more localized 
media the larger papers are increasing local coverage and adding a 
variety of special-interest sections. The surviving dailies of the 1980's 
and 1990's will be drastically changed by the segmentation of the 
reading public. 



scuba divers, retired people, women athletes, collectors of antique 
cameras, tennis nuts, skiers, and skateboarders each have their own 
press. Regional magazines like New York, New West, D in Dallas, or 
Pittsburgher, are all multiplying. Some slice the market up even more 
finely by both region and special interest — the Kentucky Business 
Ledger, for example, or Western Farmer. 

With new, fast, cheap short-run printing presses, every organization, 
community group, ”p61 iTicaT or religious cult and cultiet today can 
afford to print its own publication. Even smaller groups churn our 
periodicals on the copying machines that have become ubiquitous in 
American offices. The mass magazine has lost its once powerful 
influence in national life. The de-massified magazine — the mini- 
magazine — is rapidly taking its plage. 

But the ifnpactof the Third Wave in communications is not confine'd'to 
th6 print media. Between iff A 0 and 1910 the nrrmber ot radio stations 
jn tne unuea Slates climbed from 2,336, to 5,359. In a period when 
population rose only 35 percent, radio stations increased by 129 
percent. This means that instead of one station for every 65,000 
Americans, there is now one for every 38,000, and it means the 
average listener has more programs to choose from. The mass 
audience is cut up among more stations. 

The diversity of offerings, has also sharply increased, with different 
stations appealing to specialized audience segments instead of to the 
hitherto undifferentiated mass audience. All-news stations aim at 
educated middle-class adults. Hard rock, soft rock, punk rock, country 
rock, and folk rock stations each aim at a different sector of the youth 
audience. Soul music stations aim at Black Americans. Classical music 
stations cater to upper-income adults, foreign language stations to 
different ethnic groups, from the Portuguese in New England to 
Italians, Hispanics, Japanese, and Jews. Writes political columnist 
Richard Reeves, "In Newport, R.I., I cheeked the AM radio dial and 
found 38 stations, three of them religious, two programmed for blacks 
and one broadcasting in Portuguese." 

Relentlessly, newer forms of audio communication chip away at what 
remains of the mass audience. During the 1960's tiny, cheap tape 
recorders and cassette players spread like prairie fire among the 
young. Despite popular misconceptions to the contrary, today's teen- 

agers spend less, not more, time with their ears glued to the radio than 
was the case in 



the sixties. From an average of 4.8 hours a day in 1967, the amount of 
radio listening time plummeted to 2.8 hours in 1977. 

Then came citizens band radio. Unlike broadcast radio, which is strictly 
one-way (the listener cannot talk back to the programmer), CB radios 
in cars make it possible for drivers within a five- to fifteen-mile radius to 
communicate with each other. 

Between 1959 and 1974, only one million CB sets came into use in 
America. Then, hi the words of an astounded official of the Federal 
Communications Commission, "It took eight months [for us] to get the 
second million and three months to get the third." CB blasted off. By 
1977 some 25 million CB sets were in use, and the airwaves were 
filled with colorful chatter — from warnings that "smokies" (police) were 
setting speed traps, to prayers and prostitutes' solicitations. The fad is 
now over, but its effects are not. 

Radio broadcasters, nervous about their advertising revenues, 
vigorously deny that CB has cut into radio listener-ship. But the ad 
agencies are not so sure. One of them, Marsteller, Inc., conducted a 
survey in New York and found that 45 percent of CB users report a 10 
to 15 percent drop in listening to their regular car radios. More 
significantly, the survey found that over half the CB users listened to 
both their car radios and their CBs simultaneously. 

In any case, the shift toward jiiyersity A in print is paralleled in radio. The 
soundscape is being"de-massified along with the "printscape. 

Not until 1977, however, did the Second Wave media suffer their most 
startling and significant defeat. For a generation the .most powerful 
and the most "massifying" of the media has, of course, been television. 
In 1977 the picture tube began to flicker. Wrote Time magazine, "All 
fall, broadcast and ad executives nervously peeked at the figures . . . 
they could not believe what they were seeing. . . . For the first time in 
history, television viewing declined." 

"Nobody," mumbled one astonished ad man, "ever assumed that 
viewership would go down." 

Even now explanations abound. We are told the shows are even more 
miserable than in the past. That there is too much of this and not 
enough of that. Executive heads have rolled down the network 
corridors. We have been promised this or that new type of show. But 
the deeper truth is only beginning to emerge from the clouds of tele- 
hype. The day of the all- 



powerful centralized network that controls image production is waning. 
Indeed, a former president of NBC, charging the three main U.S. 
television networks with strategic "stupidity," has predicted their share 
of the prime-time viewing public would drop to 50 percent by the late 
1980's. For the Third Wave communications media are subverting the 
dominance of the Second Wave media lords on a broad front. 

Cable television today already reaches into 14.5 million American 
homes and is likely to spread with hurricane force in the early 1980's. 
Industry experts expect 20 to 26 million cable subscribers by the end of 
1981, with cabling available to fully 50 percent of U.S. households. 
Things will move even faster once the shift is made from copper wires 
to cheap fiber optic systems that send light pulsing through hair-thin 
fibers. And like short-run printing presses or Xerox copiers, cable de- 
massifies the audience, carving it into multiple mini-publics. Moreover, 
cable systems can be designed for two-way communication so that 
subscribers may not merely watch programs but actively call various 

In Japan, by the early 1980's entire towns will be linked to light-wave 
cable, enabling users to dial requests not only for programs but for still 
photographs, data, theater reservations, or displays of newspaper and 
magazine material. Burglar and fire alarms will work through the same 

In Ikoma, a bedroom suburb of Osaka, I was interviewed on a TV show 
on the experimental Hi-Ovis system, which places a microphone and 
television camera on top of the TV set in the home of every subscriber, 
so that viewers can become senders as well. As I was being 
interviewed by the program host, a Mrs. Sakamoto, viewing the 
program from her own living room, switched in and began chatting with 
us in broken English. I and the viewing public saw her on the screen 
and watched her little boy romping around the room as she welcomed 
me to Ikoma. 

Hi-Ovis also keeps a bank of video cassettes on everything from music 
to cooking to education. Viewers can punch in a code number and 
request the computer to play a particular cassette for them on their 
screen at whatever hour they wish to see it. 

Though it involves only about 160 homes, the Hi-Ovis experiment is 
backed by the Japanese government and contributions from such 
corporations as Fujitsu, Sumitomo Electric, Matsushita, and Kintetsu. It 
is extremely advanced and already based on fiber optics technology. 



In Columbus, Ohio, a week earlier, I had visited Warner Cable 
Corporation's Qube system. Qube provides the subscriber with thirty 
TV channels (as against four regular broadcast stations) and presents 
specialized shows for everyone from preschoolers to doctors, lawyers, 
or the "adults only" audience. Qube is the most well -developed, 
commercially effective two-way cable system in the world. Providing 

each subscriber with what looks like a hand-held calculator, it permits 
him or her to communicate with the station by push button. A viewer 
using the so-called "hot buttons" can communicate with the Qube 
studio and its computer. Time, in describing the system, waxes 
positively rhapsodic, noting that the subscriber can "voice his opinions 
in local political debates, conduct garage sales and bid for objets d'art 
in a charity auction. ... By pressing a button, Joe or Jane Columbus 
can quiz a politician, or turn electronic thumbs down or up on a local 
amateur talent program." Consumers can "comparison-shop the local 
supermarkets" or book a table at an Oriental restaurant. 

Cable, however, is not the only worry facing the networks, Video 
games, have become a "hot item" in the stores. Millions of Americans 
have discovered a passion for gadgets that convert a TV screen into a 
Ping-Pong table, hockey rink, or tennis court. This development may 
seem trivial or irrelevant to orthodox political or social analysts. Yet it 
represents a wave of social learning, a premonitory training, as it were, 
for life in the electronic environment of tomorrow. Not only do video 
games further de-massify the audience and cut into the numbers who 
are watching the programs broadcast at any given moment, but 
through such seemingly innocent devices millions of people are 
learning to play with the television set, to talk back to it, and to interact 
with it. In the process they are changing from passive receivers to 
message senders as well. They are manipulating the set rather than 
merely letting the set manipulate them. 

Information services, fed through the TV screen, are now already 
available in Britain where a viewer with an adapter unit can push a 
button and select which of a dozen or so different data services he or 
she wants — news, weather, financial, sports, and so forth. This data 
then moves across the TV screen as though on ticker tape. Before 
long users will no doubt be able to plug a hard-copier into the TV to 
capture on paper any images they wish to retain. Once again there is 
wide choice where little existed before. 

Video cassette players and recorders are spreading rapidly as well. 
Marketers expect to see a million units in use in the United States by 
1981. These not only allow viewers to tape Monday's football match for 
replay on, say, Saturday (thus demolishing the synchronization of 
imagery that the networks promote), but lay the basis for the sale of 
films and sports events on tape. (The Arabs are not asleep at the 
proverbial switch: the movie The Messenger, about the life of 
Muhammad, is available in boxed cassettes with gilt Arabic lettering on 
the outside.) Video recorders and players also make possible the sale 
of highly specialized cartridges containing, for example, medical 
instructional material for hospital staff, or tapes that show consumers 
how to assemble knockdown furniture or rewire a toaster. More 
fundamentally, video record-ers make it possible for anv consumer to 
become, in addition, a producer of his or her, own imagery. Once again 
the audience is de-massified. 

Domestic satellites, finally, make it possible for individual television 
stations to form temporary mini-networks for specialized programming 
by bouncing signals from anywhere to anywhere else at minimal cost, 
thus end-running the existing networks. By the end of 1980 cable-TV 
operators will have one thousand earth stations in place to pick up 

satellite signals. "At that point," says Television/Radio Age, "a program 
distributor need only buy time on a satellite, presto, he has a 
nationwide cable TV network ... he can selectively feed any group of 
systems he chooses." The satellite, declares William J. Donnelly, vice- 
president for electronic media at the giant Young & Rubicam 
advertising agency, "means smaller audiences and a greater 
multiplicity of nationally distributed programs." 

All these different developments have one_thing in com-mon; they 
slice the mass tfelevision public into segments, and each slice not only 
increases, our cultural diversity, it cuts deeply into the power of the 
networks that have until now so-completely dominated our imagery. 
John O'Connor, the perceptive critic of The New York Times, sums it 
up simply. "One thing is certain," he writes. "Commercial television will 
no longer be able to dictate either what is watched or when it is 

What appears on the surface to be a set of unrelated events turns out 
to be a wave of closely interrelated changes sweeping across the 
media horizon from newspapers and radio at one end to magazines 
and television at the other. The mass 



media are under attack. New, de-massified media are proliferating, 
challenging — and sometimes even replacing — the mass media that 
were so dominant in all Second Wave societies. The Third Wave thus 
begins a truly new era — the age of 

the de-massifled media. A new info-sphere is emerging along side the 
new techno-sphere. And this will have a far-reaching impact on the 
most important sphere of all, the one inside our skulls. For taken 
together, these changes revoutionize our images of the world and our 
ability to make some sense of it. 


The de-massification of the media de-massifies our minds as well. 
During the Second Wave era the continual pounding of standardized 
imagery pumped out by the media created what critics called a "mass 
mind." Today, instead of masses of people all receiving the same 
messages, smaller de-massi-fied groups receive and send large 
amounts of their own imagery to one another. As the entire society 
shifts toward Third Wave diversity, the new media reflect and 
accelerate the process. 

This, in part, explains why opinions on everything from pop music to 
politics are becoming less uniform. Consensus shatters. On a personal 
level, we are all besieged and blitzed by fragments of imagery, 
contradictory or unrelated, that shake up our old ideas and come 
shooting at us in the form of broken or disembodied "blips." We live, in 
fact, in a "blip culture." 

"Fiction increasingly stakes out smaller and smaller chunks of territory," 
complains critic Geoffrey Wolff, adding that each novelist "apprehends 
less and less of any big picture." In nonfiction, writes Daniel Laskin, 
reviewing such phenomenally popular reference works as The 
People's Almanac and The Book of Lists, "The idea of any exhaustive 
synthesis seems untenable. The alternative is to collect the world at 
random, especially its more amusing shards." But the breakup of our 
images into blips is hardly confined to books or literature. It is even 
more pronounced in the press and the electronic media. 

In this new kind of culture, with its fractured, transitory images, we can 
begin to discern a widening split between Second Wave and Third 
Wave media users. 

Second Wave people, yearning for the ready-to-wear moral 


and ideological certainties of the past, are annoyed and disoriented by 
the information blitz. They are nostalgic for radio programs of the 
1930's or movies of the 1940's. They feel cut off from the new media 
environment, not merely because much of what they hear is 
threatening or upsetting, but because the very packages in which 
information arrives are unfamiliar. 

Instead of receiving long, related "strings" of ideas, organized or 
synthesized for us, we are increasingly exposed to short, modular blips 
of information--ads, commands, theo-ries, shreds of news, truncated 
bits and blobs that refuse to fit neatly into our pre-existing mental files. 
The new imagery resists classification, partly because it often falls 
outside our old conceptual categories, but also because it comes in 
packages that are too oddly shaped, transient, and disconnected. 
Assailed by what they perceive as the bedlam of blip culture, Second 
Wave people feel a suppressed rage at the media. 

Third Wave people, by contrast, are more at ease in the midst of this 
bombardment of blips — the ninety-second news-clip intercut with a 
thirty-second commercial, a fragment of song and lyric, a headline, a 
cartoon, a collage, a newsletter item, a computer printout. Insatiable 
readers of disposable paperbacks and special-interest magazines, 
they gulp huge amounts of information in short takes. But they also 
keep an eye out for those new concepts or metaphors that sum up or 
organize blips into larger wholes. Rather than trying to stuff the new 
modular data into the standard Second Wave catego-ries or 
frameworks, they learn to make their own, to form their own "strings" 
out of the blipped material shot at them 

by the new media. 

Instead of merely receiving our mental model of reality, we are now 
compelled to invent it andcontinually reinvent it. This places an 
enormous burden onus. But it also leads toward greater individuality, a 
de-massification of personality as well as culture. Some of us crack 
under the new pressure or withdraw into apathy or anger. Others 

emerge as well formed, continually growing, competent individuals 
able to operate, as it were, on a higher level. (In either case, whether 
the strain proves too great or not, the result is a far cry from the 
uniform, standardized, easily regimented robots foreseen by so many 
sociologists and science fiction writers of the Second Wave era.) 

Above all this, the de-massification of the civilization, which the media 
both reflects and intensifies, brings with it an 

enormous jump in the amount of information we all exchange with one 
another. And it is this increase that explains why we are becoming an 
"information society.** 

For the more diverse the civilization — the more differentiated its 
technology, energy forms and people — the more in-formation must flow 
between its constituent parts if the entirety is to hold together, 
particularly under the stress of high change. An organization, for 
example, must be able to predict (more or less) how other 
organizations will respond to change, if it is to plan its own moves 
sensibly. And the same goes for individuals. The more uniform we are, 
the less we need to know about each other in order to predict one 
another's behavior. As the people around us grow more individ-ualized 
or de-massified, we need more information — signals 

and cues-to predict even roughly, how they are going to be-have 
toward us. And unless we can make such forecasts we cannot work or 
even live together. 

As a result, people and organizations continually crave more 
information and the entire system begins to pulse with higher and 
higher flows of data. By forcing up the amount of information needed 
for the social system to cohere, and the speeds at which it must be 
exchanged, the Third Wave shat-ters the framework of the obsolete, 
overloaded Second Wave info-sphere and constructs a new one to 
take its place. 




Many different people of the world believed — and some still do — that 
behind the immediate physical reality of things lie spirits, that even 
seemingly dead objects, rocks or earth, have a living force within them: 
mono. The Sioux Indians called it wakan. The Algonkians, manitou. 
The Iroquois, orenda. For such people the entire environment is alive. 

Today, as we construct a new info-sphere for a Third Wave civilization, 
we are imparting to the "dead" environment around us not life but 

The key to this revolutionary advance is, of course, the computer. A 
combination of electronic memory with programs that tell the machine 
how to process the stored data, computers were still a scientific 
curiosity in the early 1950's. Between 1955 and 1965, however, the 

decade when the Third Wave began its surge in the United States, 
they began to seep slowly into the business world. At first they were 
stand-alone units of modest capacity, employed chiefly for financial 
purposes. Soon machines with huge capacity began moving into 
corporate headquarters and were deployed for a variety of tasks. From 
1965 to 1977, says Harvey Poppel, a senior vice president of Booz 
Allen & Hamilton, the management consultants, we were hi the "era of 
the large central computer. .. . It represents the epitome, the ultimate 
manifestation of machine age thinking. It is the crowning 
achievement — a large super-computer buried hundreds of feet beneath 
the center [in a] bombproof . . . antiseptic environment ... manned by a 
bunch of super-technocrats." 

So impressive were these centralized giants that they soon 168 



became a standard part of social mythology. Movie makers, 
cartoonists, and science fiction writers, using them to symbolize the 
future, routinely pictured the computer as an all-powerful brain — a 
massive concentration of superhuman intelligence. 

During the 1 970's, however, fact outraced fiction, leaving obsolete 
imagery behind. As miniaturization advanced with lightning rapidity, as 
computer capacity soared and prices per function plunged, small, 
cheap, powerful mini-computers began to sprout everywhere. Every 
branch factory, laboratory, sales office or engineering department 
claimed its own. So many computers appeared, in fact, that companies 
sometimes lost track of how many they had. The "brainpower" of the 
computer was no longer concentrated at a single point; it was 

This dispersion of computer intelligence is now moving ahead at high 
speed. In 1977 expenditures for what is now called "distributed data 
processing," or DDP, ran to $300 million in the United States. 

According to the International Data Corporation, a leading market 
research firm in the field, this figure will reach a solid $3 billion by 
1982. Small, cheap machines, no longer requiring a specially trained 
computer priesthood, will soon be as omnipresent as the typewriter. 

We are "smartening" our work environment. 

Outside the confines of industry and government, moreover, a parallel 
process is under way based on that soon-to-be-ubiquitous gadget: the 
home computer. Five years ago the number of home or personal 
computers was negligible. Today it is estimated that 300,000 
computers are whirring and buzzing away in living rooms, kitchens, 
and dens from one end of America to the next And this is before the 
major manufacturers, like IBM and Texas Instruments, launch their 
sales drives. Home computers will soon be selling for little more than a 
television set. 

These clever machines are already being used for everything from 
doing the family taxes to monitoring energy use in the home, playing 
games, keeping a file of recipes, reminding their owners of upcoming 

appointments, and serving as "smart typewriters." This, however, 
offers only a tiny glimpse of their full potential.' 

Telecomputing Corporation of America offers a service called simply 
"The Source," which for minuscule costs provides the computer user 
with instant access to the United Press International news wire; a vast 
array of stock and com- 


modity market data; educational programs to teach children arithmetic, 
spelling, French, German, or Italian; membership in a computerized 
discount shoppers' club; instant hotel or travel reservations, and more. 

The Source also makes it possible for anyone with a cheap computer 
terminal to communicate with anyone else in the system. Bridge, 
chess, or backgammon players who so desire can play games with 
someone a thousand miles distant. Users can send private messages 
to one another or to large numbers of people all at once, and store all 
correspondence in electronic memory. The Source will even facilitate 
the creation of what might be called "electronic communities" — groups 
of people with shared interests. A dozen photo buffs in a dozen cities, 
brought together electronically by The Source, can converse to their 
heart's delight about cameras, equipment, darkroom techniques, 
lighting, or color film. Months later they can retrieve their comments 
from The Source's electronic memory, by subject, date, or other 

The dispersal of computers into the home, not to mention their 
interconnection hi ramified networks, represents another advance in 
the construction of an intelligent environment. Yet even this is not all. 

The spread of machine intelligence reaches another level altogether 
with the arrival of microprocessors and microcomputers, those tiny 
chips of congealed intelligence that are about to become a part, it 
seems, of nearly all the things we make and use. 

Apart from their applications in manufacturing processes and business 
generally, they are already embedded, or soon will be, hi everything 
from air-conditioners and autos to sewing machines and scales. They 
will monitor and minimize the waste of energy in the home. They will 
adjust the amount of detergent and the water temperature for each 
washing machine load. They will fine-tune the car's fuel system. They 
will flag us when something needs repair. They will flick on the clock 
radio, the toaster, the coffee maker, and the shower for us in the 
morning. They will warm the garage, lock the doors, and perform a 
vertiginous variety of other humble and not-so-humble tasks. 

Just how far things might go within a few decades is suggested by 
Alan P. Hald, a leading microcomputer distributor, in an amusing 
scenario he calls "Fred the House." 

According to Hald, "Home computers can already talk, interpret 
speech, and control appliances. Throw in a few sen- 



sors, a modest vocabulary, the Bell Telephone system ;nul your house 
could talk to ... anyone or anything in tin-world." Many obstacles still lie 
ahead, but the direction ol change is clear. 

"Imagine," Hald writes. "You're at work, the phone rings. It's Fred, your 
house. While monitoring the morning news n ports for stories of recent 
burglaries, Fred picked up a weather bulletin warning of pending heavy 
rain. This jogged Fred's bubble memories to run a routine roof 
maintenance check. A potential leak was found. Before calling you, 

Fred phoned Slim for advice. Slim is a ranchstyle home down the block 
. . . Fred and Slim often shared data banks and each knew they were 
programmed with an effective search technique for identifying 
household services. . . . You've learned to trust Fred's judgment, and 
approve the repairs. The rest is rather straight forward, Fred calls the 

The fantasy is funny. Yet it spookily catches the feel of life in an 
intelligent environment. Living in such an environment raises chilling 
philosophical questions. Will machines take over? Can intelligent 
machines, especially as they are linked together in mtercommunicating 
networks, outrun our ability to understand and control them? Will Big 
Brother some day be able to tap not merely our telephones but our 
toasters and television sets, keeping tabs on our every move and 
mood? How dependent should we allow ourselves to become on the 
computer and the chip? As we pump more and more intelligence into 
the material environment, won't our own minds atrophy? And what 
happens if someone or something pulls the plug out of the wall? Will 
we still have the basic skills needed for survival? 

For each question there are innumerable counterquestions. Can Big 
Brother really keep tabs on every toaster and TV set, every car engine 
and kitchen appliance? When intelligence is distributed widely 
throughout the entire environment, when it can be activated by users in 
a thousand places at once, when computer users can communicate 
with one another without going through the central computer (as they 
do in many distributed networks), can Big Brother still control things? 
Rather than enhancing the power of the total it:ni:m state, the 
decentralization of intelligence may, in fact, w it. Alternatively, won't we 
be smart enough to outfox govern ment? In The Shockwave Rider, a 
brilliant, complex novel l>y John Brunner, the central character 
successfully .sahoinj-es tin-efforts of the government to impose 
thought control iln«>nrl< 



the computer network. Must minds atrophy? As we shall see in a 
moment, the creation of an intelligent environment could have 
precisely the opposite effect. In designing machines to do our bidding, 
can't we program them, like Robbie in Isaac Asimov's classic tale, /, 
Robot, never to harm a human? The verdict is not yet in, and, while it 
would be irresponsible to ignore such issues, it would be na'ive to 

assume that the cards are stacked against the human race. We have 
intelligence and imagination we have not yet begun to use. 

What is inescapably clear, however, whatever we choose to believe, is 
that we are altering our info-sphere fundamentally. We are not merely 
de-massifying the Second Wave media, we are adding whole new 
strata of communication to the social system. The emerging Third 
Wave info-sphere makes that of the Second Wave era — dominated by 
its mass media, the post office, and the telephone — seem hopelessly 
primitive by contrast. 


In altering the info-sphere so profoundly, we are destined to transform 
our own minds as well — the way we think about our problems, the way 
we synthesize information, the way we anticipate the consequences of 
our own actions. We are likely to change the role of literacy in bur lives. 
We may even alter our own brain chemistry. 

Raid's comment about the ability of computers and chip-studded 
appliances to converse with us is not as blue-sky as it might seem. 
"Voice data entry" terminals in existence today are already capable of 
recognizing and responding to a vo-cabularly of one thousand words, 
and many companies, from giants like IBM or Nippon Electric to 
midgets like Heuristics, Inc., or Centigram Corporation, are racing to 
expand that vo-cabularly, simplify the technology, and radically slash 
the costs. Forecasts for when computers will feel at home with natural 
language range from upwards of twenty years down to a mere five 
years, and the implications of this development — on both the economy 
and the culture — could be tremendous. 

Today millions of people are excluded from the job market because 
they are functionally illiterate. Even the simplest jobs demand people 
capable of reading forms, on-off buttons, paychecks, job instructions, 
and the like. In the Second Wave 



world the ability to read was the most elemental skill required by the 
hiring office. 

Yet illiteracy is not the same as stupidity. We know that illiterate people 
the world over are capable of mastering highly sophisticated skills in 
activities as diverse as agriculture, construction, hunting, and music. 
Many illiterates have prodigious memories and can speak several 
languages fluently — something most university-educated Americans 
cannot do. In Second Wave societies, however, illiterates were 
economically doomed. 

Literacy, of course, is more than a job skill. It is the doorway to a 
fantastic universe of imagination and pleasure. Yet in an intelligent 
environment, when machines, appliances, and even walls are 
programmed to speak, literacy could turn out to be less paycheck- 
linked than it has been for the past three hundred years. Airline 

reservation clerks, stock-room personnel, machine operators, and 
repairmen may be able to function quite adequately on the job bv 
listening rather than reading, as a voice from the machine tells them, 
step by step, what to do next or how to replace a broken part. 

Computers are not superhuman. They break down. They make 
errors — sometimes dangerous ones. There is nothing magical about 
them, and they are assuredly not "spirits" or *'souls" in our 
environment. Yet with all these qualifications, they remain among the 
most amazing and unsettling of human achievements, for they 
enhance our mind-power as Second Wave technology enhanced our 
muscle-power, and we do not know where our own minds will 
ultimately lead us. 

As we grow more familiar with the intelligent environment, and learn to 
converse with it from the time we leave the cradle, we will begin to use 
computers with a grace and naturalness that is hard for us to imagine 
today. And they will help all of us — not just a few "super- 
technocrats'* — to think more deeply about ourselves and the world. 

Today, when a problem arises we immediately seek to discover its 
causes. However, until now even the most profound thinkers have 
usually attempted to explain things in terms of a relative handful of 
causal forces. For even the best human mind finds it difficult to 
entertain, let alone manipulate, more than a few variables at a time.* In 
consequence, when faced with a truly complicated problem — like why 
a child is delinquent, or why inflation ravages an economy, or how 
urbanization affects the ecology of a nearby river — we tend to focus 



on two or three factors and to ignore many others that may, singly or 
collectively, be far more important. 

Worse yet, each group of experts typically insists on the primal 
importance of "its own" causes, to the exclusion of others. Faced with 
the staggering problems of urban decay, the Housing Expert traces it 
to congestion and a declining housing stock; the Transportation Expert 
points to the lack of mass transit; the Welfare Expert shows the 
inadequacy of budgets for day-care centers or social work; the Crime 
Expert points a finger at the infrequency of police patrols; the 
Economics Expert shows that high taxes are discouraging business 
investment; and so on. Everyone high-mindedly agrees that all these 
problems are somehow interconnected — that they form a self- 
reinforcing system. But no one can keep the many complexities in 
mind while trying to think through a solution to the problem. 

Urban decay is only one of a large number of what Peter Ritner, in The 
Society of Space, once felicitously termed "weave problems." He 
warned that we would increasingly face crises that were "not 
susceptible to 'cause and effect analysis' but would require 'mutual 
dependence analysis'; not composed of easily detachable elements 
but of hundreds of cooperating influences from dozens of independent, 
overlapping sources." 

Because it can remember and interrelate large numbers of causal 
forces, the computer can help us cope with such problems at a deeper 
than customary level. It can sift vast masses of data to find subtle 
patterns. It can help assemble "blips'* into larger, more meaningful 
wholes. Given a set of assumptions or a model, it can trace out the 
consequences of alternative decisions, and do it more systematically 
and completely than any individual normally could. It can even suggest 
imaginative solutions to certain problems by identifying novel or 
hitherto unnoticed relationships among people and resources. 

Human intelligence, imagination, and intuition will continue in the 
foreseeable decades to be far more important than the machine. 
Nevertheless, computers can be expected to deepen the entire 
culture's view of causality, heightening our understanding of the 
interrelatedness of things, and helping us to synthesize meaningful 
"wholes" out of the discon- 

* While we may deal with many factors simultaneously on a 
subconscious or intuitive level, systematic, conscious thinking about a 
great many variables is damnably difficult, as anyone who has tried it 


nected data whirling around us. The computer is one antidote to blip 

At the same time, the intelligent environment may eventually begin to 
change not merely the way we analyze problems and integrate 
information, but even the chemistry of our brains. Experiments by 
David Krech, Marian Diamond, Mark Rosenzweig, and Edward 
Bennett, among others, have shown that animals exposed to an 
"enriched" environment have larger cerebral cortices, more glial cells, 
bigger neurons, more active neurotransmitters, and larger blood 
supplies to the brain than animals in a control group. Can it be that, as 
we complexify the environment and make it more intelligent, we shall 
make ourselves more intelligent as well? 

Dr. Donald F. Klein, Director of Research at New York Psychiatric 
Institute, one of the world's leading neuropsychia-trists, speculates: 

"Krech's work suggests that among the variables affecting intelligence 
is the richness and responsiveness of the early environment. Kids 
brought up in what might be called a 'stupid' environment — 
understimulating, poor, unresponsive — soon learn not to take chances. 
There's little margin for error, and it actually pays off to be cautious, 
conservative, uninquisitive or downright passive, none of which works 
wonders for the brain. 

"On the other hand, kids raised in a smart, responsive environment, 
which is complex and stimulating, may develop a different set of skills. 
If kids can call on the environment to do things for them, they become 
less dependent on parents at a younger age. They may gain a sense 

of mastery or competence. And they can afford to be inquisitive, 
exploratory, imaginative, and to adopt a problem-solving approach to 
life. All of which may promote changes in the brain itself. At this point, 
all we can do is guess. But it is not impossible that an intelligent 
environment could lead us to develop new synapses and a larger 
cortex. A smarter environment might make smarter people." 

All this, however, only begins to hint at the larger significance of the 
changes the new info-sphere brings with it. I'or the de-massification of 
the media and the concomitant rise of the computer together change 
our social memory. 



All memories can be divided into those that are purely personal or 
private and those that are shared or social. Unshared private 
memories die with the individual. Social memory lives on. Our 
remarkable ability to file and retrieve shared memories is the secret of 
our species' evolutionary success. And anything that significantly alters 
the way we construct, store, or use social memory therefore touches 
on the very wellsprings of destiny. 

Twice before in history humankind has revolutionized its social 
memory. Today, in constructing a new info-sphere, we are poised on 
the brink of another such transformation. 

In the beginning, human groups were forced to store their shared 
memories in the same place they kept private memories — i.e., in the 
minds of individuals. Tribal elders, wise men, and others carried these 
memories with them hi the form of history, myth, lore, and legend, and 
transmitted them to then: children through speech, song, chant, and 
example. How to light a fire, the best way to snare a bird, how to lace a 
raft or pound taro, how to sharpen a plowstick or care for the oxen — all 
the accumulated experience of the group was stored in the neurons 
and glia and synapses of human beings. 

So long as this remained true, the size of the social memory was 
sorely limited. No matter how good the memories of the elderly, no 
matter how memorable the songs or lessons, there was only so much 
storage space in the skulls of any population. 

Second Wave civilization smashed the memory barrier. It spread mass 
literacy. It kept systematic business records. It built thousands of 
libraries and museums. It invented the file cabinet. In short, it moved 
social memory outside the skull, found new ways to store it, and thus 
expanded it beyond its previous limits. By increasing the store of 
cumulative knowledge, it accelerated all the processes of innovation 
and social change, giving Second Wave civilization the most rapidly 
changing and developing culture the world until then had known. 

Today we are about to jump to a whole new stage of social memory. 
The radical de-massification of the media, the invention of new media, 
the mapping of the earth by satellite, the monitoring of hospital patients 
by electronic sensors, the 



computerization of corporate files — all mean we are recording the 
activities of the civilization hi fine-grain detail. Unless we incinerate the 
planet, and our social memory with it, we shall before long have the 
closest thing to a civilization with total recall. Third Wave civilization will 
have at its disposal more information, and more finely organized 
information, about itself than could have been imagined even a 
quarter-century ago. 

The shift to a Third Wave social memory, however, is more than just 
quantitative. We are also, as it were, imparting life to our memory. 

When social memory was stored in human brains it was continually 
being eroded, refreshed, stirred about, combined and recombined in 
new ways. It was active, or dynamic. It was, in the most literal sense, 

When industrial civilization moved much of social memory outside the 
skull, that memory became objectified, embedded in artifacts, books, 
payroll sheets, newspapers, photographs, and films. But a symbol 
once inscribed on a page, a photo once captured on film, a newspaper 
once printed, remained passive or static. Only when these symbols 
were fed into a human brain again did they come alive, to be 
manipulated or recombined hi fresh ways. While Second Wave 
civilization radically expanded social memory, it also froze it. 

What makes the leap to a Third Wave info-sphere so historically 
unprecedented a situation: it makes social memory both extensive and 
active. And this combination will prove to be propulsive. 

Activating this newly expanded memory will unleash fresh cultural 
energies. For the computer not only helps us organize or synthesize 
"blips" into coherent models of reality, it also stretches the far limits of 
the possible. No library or file cabinet could think, let alone think in an 
unorthodox fashion. The computer, by contrast, can be asked by us to 
"think the unthinkable" and the previously unthought. It makes possible 
a flood of new theories, ideas, ideologies, artistic insights, technical 
advances, economic and political innovations that were, in the most 
literal sense, unthinkable and unimaginable before now. In this way, it 
accelerates historic change and fuels the thrust toward Third Wave 
social diversity. 

In all previous societies the info-sphere provided the means for 
communication between humans. The Third Wave multiplies these 
means. But it also provides powerful facilities, for 



the first time in history, for machine-to-machine communication and, 
even more astonishing, for conversation between humans and the 

intelligent environment around them. When we stand back and look at 
the larger picture, it becomes clear that the revolution in the info- 
sphere is at least as dramatic as that in the techno-sphere — in the 
energy system and technological base of society. 

The work of constructing a new civilization is racing forward on many 
levels at once. 


One day not long ago I drove a rented car from the snow-swathed 
peaks of the Rocky Mountains down along snaky roads, then across 
the high plains, and down, down again until I reached the eastern 
foothills of that majestic mountain range. There in Colorado Springs, 
under a brilliant sky, I made my way to a long, low building complex 
that nestled along the highway, dwarfed by the peaks looming behind 

As I entered the building, I remembered again the factories in which I 
had once worked, with all their clatter and roar, their dirt, smoke, and 
suppressed anger. For years, ever since leaving our manual jobs, my 
wife and I have been "factory voyeurs." In all our travels around the 
globe, instead of zeroing in on ruined cathedrals and tourist clip joints 
we have made it our business to see how people work. For nothing I 
ells us more about their culture. And now in Colorado Springs I was 
once again visiting a factory. I had been told (hat it was among the 
most advanced manufacturing facilities in the world. 

It soon became clear why. For, in plants like this, one glimpses the 
latest hi technology and the most advanced information systems — and 
the practical effects of their convergence. 

This Hewlett-Packard facility turns out $100 million worth a year of 
electronic apparatus — cathode-ray tubes for use in TV monitors and 
medical equipment, oscilloscopes, "logic analyzers" for testing, and 
even more arcane items. Of the 1 ,-700 people employed here, fully 40 
percent are engineers, 




programmers, technicians, clerical or managerial personnel. They work 
in a huge, high-ceilinged open space. One wall is a giant picture 
window that frames an imposing view of Pikes Peak. The other walls 
are painted bright yellow and white. The floors are light -colored vinyl, 
gleaming and hospital clean. 

The workers at H-P, from clerks to computer specialists,, from the plant 
manager to assemblers and inspectors, are not separated spatially but 
work together in open bays. Instead of shouting to one another over a 
machine clatter, they speak in normal conversational tones. Because 
everyone wears ordinary street clothes there are no visible distinctions 
of rank or task. Production employees sit at their own benches or 

desks; so many of these are decorated with trailing ivy, flowers, and 
other greenery that, from some visual angles, one has the fleeing 
illusion of being in a garden. 

Striding through this facility, I thought how poignant it would be if I 
could magically lift some of my old mates out of the foundry and auto 
assembly line, put of the racket, the dirt, the hard bruising manual 
labor, and the rigidly authoritarian discipline that accompanied it, and 
transplant them into this new-style work environment. 

They would stare in wonder at what they saw. I doubt very much that 
H-P is a workers' paradise, and my blue collar friends would not be 
easily fooled. They would demand to know, item by item, the pay 
schedules, the fringe benefits, the grievance procedures, if any. They 
would ask whether the exotic new materials being handled hi this plant 
are really safe or whether there are environmental health hazards. 

They would assume rightly that even under the seemingly casual 
relationships some people give orders and others take them. 

Nevertheless, my old friends' shrewd eyes would take in much that is 
new and sharply different from the classical factories they knew. They 
would notice, for example, that instead of all the H-P employees 
arriving at once, punching the clock, and racing to their work stations, 
they are able, within limits, to choose their own individual working 
hours. Instead of being forced to stay in one work location, they are 
able to move about as they wish. My old friends would marvel at the 
freedom of the H-P employees, again within limits, to set their own 
work pace. To talk to managers or engineers without worrying about 
status or hierarchy. To dress as they wish. In short, to be individuals. In 
fact, my old companions in their heavy steel-tipped shoes, dirty 
overalls, and working- 



men's caps would find it hard, I believe, to think of the place us a 
factory at all. 

And if we regard the factory as the home of mass production, they 
would be right. For mass production is not whnt this facility is all about. 
We have moved beyond mass production. 


It is conventional knowledge by now that the percentage of workers 
employed in manufacturing in the "advanced" nations has declined in 
the past twenty years. (In the United States today only 9 percent of the 
total population — 20 million workers — manufacture goods for some 220 
million people. The remaining 65 million workers provide services and 
manipulate symbols.) And as this shrinkage of manufacturing has 
accelerated in the industrial world, more and more routine 
manufacturing has been farmed out to the so-called developing 
countries, from Algeria to Mexico and Thailand. Like rusty used cars, 
the most backward Second Wave industries are thus exported from the 
rich nations to the poor. 

For strategic as well as economic reasons, the rich nations cannot 
afford to surrender manufacturing altogether, and they will not become 
pure examples of "service societies" or "information economies." The 
image of the rich world living off nonmaterial production while the rest 
of the world engages in the output of material goods is highly 
oversimplified. Instead, we will find the rich nations continuing to 
manufacture key goods — but needing fewer workers to do so. For we 
are transforming the very way goods are made. 

The essence of Second Wave manufacture was the long "run" of 
millions of identical, standardized products. By contrast, the essence of 
Third Wave manufacture is the short run of partially or completely 
customized products. 

The public still tends to think of manufacture in terms of long runs, and 
we do of course continue to turn out cigarettes by the billion, textiles by 
the millions of yards, light bulbs, matches, bricks, or spark plugs in 
astronomical quantities. No doubt we will continue to do so for some 
time. Yet these are precisely the products of the more backward 
industries rather than the most advanced, and today they account for 
only about 5 percent of all our manufactured goods. 

An analyst in Critique, a journal of Soviet studies, 



that while "the less highly developed countries — [those] with a GNP of 
between U.S. $1000-2000 per capita per annum — concentrate on 
mass produced manufactures" the "most highly developed countries . . 

. concentrate on the export of one-off and short-run manufactured 
goods depending on highly skilled labour and . . . high research costs: 
computers, specialised machinery, aircraft, automated production, 
systems, high technology paints, pharmaceutical products, high 
technology polymers and plastics." 

In Japan, West Germany, the United States, even in the Soviet Union, 
in such fields as electrical manufacturing, chemicals, aerospace, 
electronics, specialized vehicles, communications, and the like, we find 
the trend toward de-massi-fication well developed. At Western 
Electric's super-advanced plant in northern Illinois, for example, 
workers make over four hundred different "circuit packs" in runs that 
range from a maximum of two thousand a month all the way down to 
two a month. At Hewlett-Packard in Colorado Springs, production runs 
as small as fifty to one hundred units are com* mon. 

At IBM, Polaroid, McDonnell Douglas, Westinghouse, and General 
Electric in the United States, at Plessey and ITT in Great Britain, at 
Siemens in Germany or Ericsson in Sweden, the same shift toward 
short run and customized products is marked. In Norway the Aker 
Group, which once accounted for 45 percent of that nation's ship 
construction, has shifted to the manufacture of off-shore oil equipment. 
The result: a switch from "series production" of ships to "tailor-made" 
offshore products. 

In chemicals, meanwhile, according to executive R. E. Lee, Exxon is 
"moving to short runs in fabricated products — polypropylene and 
polyethelyne in extruded plastics for pipe, sidings, panelling, etc. In 
Paramins we are doing increasing custom work." Some of the runs are 
so small, Lee adds, "we call them 'mouse-milk' runs." 

In military production most people still think in terms of mass — but the 
reality is "de-mass." We think of millions of identical uniforms, helmets, 
rifles. In fact, the vast bulk of what a modern military establishment 
needs is not mass produced at all. Jet fighters can be produced in runs 
as small as ten to fifty at a time. Each one of these may be slightly 
different, depending on purpose and branch of service. And with such 
small orders, many of the components that go into the planes are 
usually produced in short runs also. 



Thus an eye-opening analysis of Pentagon spending by the number of 
end-products purchased came up with the finding I hat, out of $9.1 
billion spent on goods for which the number of end items was 
identifiable, fully 78 percent ($7.1 billion) went for goods produced in 
lots of under 100 units! 

Even in fields where components are still mass-produced in very large 
quantities — and in some highly advanced industries this is still the 
case — the components are usually configured to form many different 
end-products, each of which is in turn produced in short runs. 

One need only look at the incredibly diverse vehicles whizzing down an 
Arizona highway to recognize how the once relatively uniform auto 
market has splintered into segments, forcing even those technological 
tyrannosaurs, the auto makers, to back grudgingly into partial 
customization. The car manufacturers in Europe, the United States, 
and Japan now mass-manufacture components and sub-assemblies, 
then plug them together in myriad ways. 

At another level, note the humble T-shirt. The shirts are mass-made. 

But new, cheap fast-heat presses make it economical to imprint 
designs or slogans on very small batches. The result is a wild flowering 
of shirts facetiously identifying the wearer as a Beethoven fan, a beer 
drinker, or a porno star. Autos, T-shirts, and many other products 
represent a halfway stage between mass and de-massified 

The step beyond this, of course, is complete customization — the actual 
manufacture of one-of-a-kind products. And that is clearly the direction 
in which we are heading: products custom-cut for individual users. 

According to Robert H. Anderson, head of the Information Services 
Department at the Rand Corporation, and an expert on advanced 
manufacturing: "It will be no harder in the near future to custom 
produce something . . . than it is to mass produce . . . today. . . . We're 
beyond the modularization stage where you make a lot of modules and 

plug them together . . . and we're getting on to the stage of just plain 
custom production. Just like clothes." 

The shift toward customization is perhaps best symbolized by a 
computer-based laser gun introduced a few years ago into the 
clothing. industry. Before the Second Wave brought mass production, if 
a man wanted a piece of clothing made he went to a tailor or a 
seamstress, or his wife sewed it. Tn any case, it was done on a 
handcraft basis, to his individual measure. All sewing was essentially 
custom tailoring. 


After the arrival of the Second Wave, we began to manufacture 
identical clothes on a mass-production basis. Under this system the 
worker placed one layer of cloth on top of another; he laid a pattern on 
top; then, with an electric cutting knife he cut around the edges of the 
pattern and produced multiple, identical cutouts of the cloth. These 
were then subjected to identical processing and came out identical in 
size, shape, color, and so forth. 

The new laser machine operates on a radically different principle. It 
does not cut 10 or 50 or 100 or even 500 shirts or jackets at a time. Its 
cuts one at a time. But it acutally cut faster and cheaper than the 
mass-production methods employed until now. It reduces waste and 
eliminates the need for inventory. For these reasons, according to the 
president of Genesco, one of the largest manufacturers of apparel in 
the United States, "The laser machines can be programmed to fill an 
order for one garment economically." What that suggests is that some 
day even standard sizes may disappear. It ma) be possible to read 
one's measurements into a telephone, 01 point a video camera at 
oneself, thus feeding data directly into a computer, which in turn will 
instruct the machine to produce a single garment, cut exactly to one's 
personal, individualized dimensions. 

What we are looking at, in effect, is custom tailoring on a high- 
technology basis. It is the reinstatement of a system of production that 
flourished before the industrial revolution — but now built on the basis 
of the most advanced, sophisticated technology. Just as we are de- 
classifying the media, we are de-massifying manufacture. 

Several other quite extraordinary advances are transforming the way 
we make things. 

As some industries move from mass to small batch production, others 
are already moving beyond that toward full customization on a 
continuous-flow basis. Instead of starting and stopping production at 
the beginning and end of each short run, they are advancing to the 
point at which the machines can continuously reset themselves, so that 
the units of output — each one different from the next — stream from the 
machines hi an unbroken flow. In a nutshell, we are racing 



toward machine customization on a round-the-clock, continuous basis. 

Another significant change, as we shall shortly see, brings the 
customer more directly than ever before into the manufacturing 
process. In some industries we are only a step removed from a 
situation in which a customer-company pipes its specifications directly 
into the manufacturer's computers, which will in turn control the 
production line. As this practice becomes widespread, the customer 
will become so integrated into the production process that we will find it 
more and more difficult to tell just who is actually the consumer and 
who the producer. 

Finally, while Second Wave manufacture was Cartesian in the sense 
that products were broken into pieces, then painstakingly reassembled, 
Third Wave manufacture is post-Cartesian or "wholistic." This is 
illustrated by what has happened to common manufactured products 
like the wristwatch. Whereas watches once had hundreds of moving 
parts, we are now able to make solid-state watches that are more 
accurate and reliable — with no moving parts at all. Similarly, today's 
Panasonic TV set has half as many parts as the sets of ten years ago. 
As tiny microprocessors — those miracle chips again — turn up in more 
and more products, they replace impressive numbers of conventional 
components. Exxon introduces the "Qyx" — a new typewriter with only a 
handful of moving parts as against the hundreds in the IBM Selectric. 
Similarly, a well-known 35mm camera, the Canon AE-1, is now made 
with 300 fewer parts than the model it superseded. Fully 175 of these 
were replaced by a single Texas Instruments chip. 

By intervening at the molecular level, by using computer-aided design 
or other advanced manufacturing tools, we integrate more and more 
functions into fewer and fewer parts, substituting "wholes" for many 
discrete components. What is occurring can be compared to the rise of 
photography in the visual arts. Instead of making a picture by placing 
innumerable daubs of paint on a canvas, the photographer "makes" 
the entire image at once by pressing a button. We are beginning to see 
this "presto effect" hi manufacturing. 

The pattern becomes clear, therefore. Vast changes in the techno- 
sphere and the info-sphere have converged to change the way we 
make goods. We are moving rapidly beyond traditional mass 
production to a sophisticated mix of mass and de-massified products. 
The ultimate goal of this effort is now 



apparent: completely customized goods, made with wholistic, 
continuous-flow processes, increasingly under the direct control of the 

In brief, we are revolutionizing the deep structure of production, 
sending currents of change through every layer of society. However, 
this transformation, which will affect the student planning a career, the 
business planning an investment, or the nation planning a 

development strategy, can't be understood in isolation. It must be seen 
in direct relationship to yet another revolution — this one in the office. 


As fewer workers in the rich nations have engaged in physical 
production, more have been needed to produce ideas, patents, 
scientific formulae, bills, invoices, reorganization plans, files, dossiers, 
market research, sales presentations, letters, graphics, legal briefs, 
engineering specifications, computer programs, and a thousand other 
forms of data or symbolic output. This rise in white-collar, technical, 
and administrative activity has been so widely documented in so many 
countries that we need no statistic here to make the point. Indeed, 
some sociologists have seized on the increasing abstraction of 
production as evidence that society has moved into a "post-industrial" 

The facts are more complicated. For the growth of the white-collar 
work force can be better understood as an extension of industrialism — 
a further last surge of the Second Wave — than as a leap to a new 
system. While it is true that work has grown more abstract and less 
concrete, the actual offices in which this work is being done are 
modeled directly after Second Wave factories, with the work itself 
fragmented, repetitive, dull, and dehumanizing. Even today, much 
office reorganization is little more than an attempt to make the office 
more closely resemble a factory. 

In this "symbol-factory," Second Wave civilization also created a 
factory I ike caste system. The factory work force is divided into manual 
and nonmanual workers. The office is similarly divided into "high 
abstraction" and "low abstraction" workers. At one level we find the 
high abstracters, the technocratic elites: scientists, engineers, and 
managers, crwch of whose time is taken up with meetings, 
conferences, business lunches, or in dictating, drafting memos, placing 



phone calls, and otherwise exchanging information. One recent survey 
estimated that 80 percent of the manager's time is spent in 150 to 300 
"information transactions" daily. 

At the other level we find the low abstractors — white-collar proletarians, 
as it were — who, like factory workers throughout the Second Wave 
period, perform endlessly routine and deadening work. Mostly female 
and nommionized, this group can justifiably smile with irony at the 
sociologists' talk of "post-industrialism." They are the industrial work 
force of the office. 

Today the office, too, is beginning to move beyond the Second Wave 
and into the Third, and this industrial caste system is about to be 
challenged. All the old hierarchies and structures of the office are soon 
to be reshuffled. 

The Third Wave revolution in the office is the result of several colliding 
forces. The need for information has mushroomed so wildly that no 
army of Second Wave clerks, typists, and secretaries, no matter how 
large or hard-working, can possibly cope with it. In addition, the cost of 
paper work has climbed so calamitously that a frantic search is 
underway to control it. (Office costs have swelled to 40 or 50 percent of 
all costs in many companies, and some experts estimate that the 
expense of preparing a single business letter can run as high as $14 to 
$18 when all the hidden factors are taken into account.) Moreover, 
while the average factory worker in the United States today is 
supported by an estimated $25,000 worth of technology, the office 
worker, as one Xerox salesman puts it, "works with $500 or $1 000 
worth of old typewriters and adding machines, and is probably among 
the least productive workers in the world." Office productivity has 
climbed a bare 4 percent over the past decade, and conditions in other 
countries are probably even more pronounced. 

Contrast this with the extraordinary decline in the cost of computers, as 
measured by the number of functions performed. It has been estimated 
that computer output has increased 10,000 times in the past fifteen 
years, and that the per-function cost today is down 100,000-fold. The 
combination of rising costs and stagnating productivity on the one hand 
and computer advances on the other make an irresistible combination. 
The result is likely to be nothing less than a "wordquake." 

The main symbol of this upheaval is an electronic device 


called the word processor — some 250,000 of which are already at work 
in U.S. offices. Manufacturers of these machines, including such titans 
as IBM and Exxon, are bracing themselves to compete in what they 
believe will soon be a $1 0-billion-a-year market. Sometimes called a 
"smart typewriter" or a "text editor," this device fundamentally alters the 
flow of information in the office, and with it the job structure. It is, 
however, only one of a great family of new technologies about to 
deluge the white-collar world. 

In Chicago in June 1979, at the convention of the International Word 
Processing Association, some 20,000 perspiring visitors trooped 
through an exhibition hall to examine or try out a bewildering array of 
other machines as well — optical scanners, high-speed printers, 
micrographic equipment, facsimile machines, computer terminals, and 
the like. They were looking at the beginning of what some term the 
"paperless office" of tomorrow. 

In Washington, D.C., in fact, a consulting firm known as Micronet, Inc. 
has brought together the equipment of seventeen different 
manufacturers into an integrated office in which paper is verboten. Any 
document arriving in this office is instantly microfilmed and stored for 
computer retrieval later on. This demonstration office and training 
facility integrates dictating equipment, microfilm, optical scanners, and 
video terminals into a functioning system. The objective, says Micronet 
president Larry Stockett, is an office of the future in which "there are no 
misfiles; marketing, sales, accounting and research data are always up 
to the minute; information is reproduced and distributed at hundreds of 

thousands of pages per hour for a fraction of a cent per page; and . . . 
information is converted back and forth from print to digital to 
photographic media at will." 

The key to such an office of the future is ordinary correspondence. In a 
conventional Second Wave office, when an executive wants to fire off 
a letter or memo, an intermediary is called in — the secretary. This 
person's first task is to capture the executive's words on paper — in a 
notebook or a typed draft. Next the message is corrected to eliminate 
errors, and perhaps retyped a few times. After that it is clean typed. A 
carbon or Xerox copy is made. The original is dispatched to its 
destination through the mailroom or the post office. The duplicate is 
filed. Not counting the initial step of composing the message, five 
distinct sequential steps are required. 



Today's machines compress these five steps into one, making the 
sequential all but simultaneous. 

To learn how — and to speed up my own work — I bought a simple 
computer, used it as a word processor, and wrote the latter half of this 
book on it. To my pleasure, I found I could master the machine in a 
single short session. Within a few hours I was using it fluently. After 
more than a year at the keyboard I am still amazed by its speed and 

Today, instead of typing a draft of a chapter on paper, I type on a 
keyboard that stores it in electronic form on what is known as a "floppy 
disk." I see my words displayed before me on a TV-like screen. By 
punching a. few keys I can instantly revise or rearrange what I have 
written, shifting paragraphs, deleting, inserting, underlining, until I have 
a version I like. This eliminates erasing, "whiting out," cutting, pasting, 
stripping, Xeroxing, or typing successive drafts. Once I have corrected 
the draft, I press a button, and a printer at my side makes a Jetter- 
perfect final copy for me at vision-blurring speeds. 

But making paper copies of anything is a primitive use of such 
machines and violates their very spirit. For the ultimate beauty of the 
electronic office lies not merely in the steps saved by a secretary in 
typing and correcting letters. The automated office can file them in the 
form of electronic bits on tape or disk. It can (or soon will) pass them 
through an electronic dictionary that will automatically correct their 
spelling errors. With the machines hooked up to one another and to the 
phone lines, the secretary can instantly transmit the letter to its 
recipient's printer or screen. The equipment thus can capture an 
original, correct it, duplicate it, send it, and file it in what amounts 
virtually to a single process. Speed increases. Costs go down. And the 
five steps are compressed into one. 

The implications of this compression extend far outside the office. For 
among other things, this equipment, linked to satellites, microwave, 
and other telecommunications facilities, makes it possible to end-run 
that overworked, malfunctioning, classically Second Wave institution, 

the Post Office. Indeed, the spread of office automation, of which word 
processing is only a single small aspect, is integrally linked to the 
creation of "electronic mail" systems to replace the postman and his 
burdensome bag. 

In the United States today, fully 35 percent of total domestic postal 
volume consists of transaction reports: bills, receipts, purchase orders, 
invoices, bank statements, checks, 


and the like. However, a vast amount of mail flows not between 
individuals but between organizations. As the postal crisis has 
deepened, more and more companies have sought an alternative to 
the Second Wave postal system and begun to build pieces of a Third 
Wave system instead. 

Based on teleprinters, facsimile machines, word processor equipment, 
and computer terminals, this electronic postal system is spreading very 
rapidly, especially in the advanced industries, and will be given a 
further tremendous boost by the new satellite systems. 

Together, IBM, Aetna Casualty and Surety, and Comsat (the quasi- 
governmental communications satellite agency) have set up a 
company called Satellite Business Systems to provide integrated 
information services to other companies. SBS plans to loft satellites for 
client firms like General Motors, say, or Hoechst or Toshiba. Together 
with cheap ground stations located at each company installation, the 
SBS satellite makes it possible for each company to have, in effect, its 
own electronic postal system, bypassing in good measure the public 
postal services. 

Instead of transporting paper, the new system moves electronic 
pulses. Even today, notes Vincent Giuliano of the Arthur D. Little 
research organization, electronics is the "hot" medium in many fields; it 
is the electronic impulse that effectuates a transaction, with a paper bill 
or receipt or statement going out afterward merely to validate it. How 
long the paper will be needed is a matter of dispute. 

Messages and memos move silently and instantaneously. Terminals at 
every desk — thousands of them in any large organization — flicker 
quietly as information flows through the system, bouncing up to a 
satellite and down to an office halfway around the world or to a 
terminal in an executive's home. Computers link the company's files 
with those of other companies where necessary, and managers can 
call up information stored in hundreds of outside data banks like the 
New York Times Information Bank. 

Just how far events move in this direction remains to be seen. The 
image of the office of the future is too neat, too smooth, too 
disembodied to be real. Reality is always messy. But it is clear that we 
are rapidly on our way, and even a partial shift toward the electronic 
office will be enough to trigger an eruption of social, psychological, and 
economic consequences. The coming workquake means more than 



new machines. It promises to restructure all the human relationships 
and roles in the office as well. 

It will, for a start, eliminate many of the secretary's functions. Even 
typing becomes an obsolete skill in tomorrow's office, when speech- 
recognition technology arrives. At first typing will still be necessary to 
capture the messages and put them in transmittable form. But before 
long, dictation equipment tuned to the distinctive accents of each 
individual user will convert the sounds into written words, thus entirely 
bypassing the typing operation. 

"The old technology used a typist,*' says Dr. Oiuliano, "because it was 
klutzy. When you had a clay tablet, you needed a scribe who knew 
how to bake clay and chisel marks on it. Writing was not for the 
masses. Today we have scribes called typists. But as soon as the new 
technology makes it easier to capture the message, to correct it, store 
it, retrieve it, send it and copy it, we will do all those things for 
ourselves— just like writing and talking. Once the klutz-factor is 
eliminated, we don't need the typist." 

Indeed, one dearly held hope of many word-processing experts has 
the secretary being upgraded and the executive taking on or sharing 
the typing chore, at least until such time as it is totally eliminated. 
When I delivered a speech at the International Word Processing 
convention, for example, I was asked if my secretary uses the machine 
for me. When I said I typed my own drafts and that, in fact, my 
secretary could hardly get near my computer/word processor, cheers 
rang through the room. They dream of a day when the classified 
section in the newspaper may include ads like: 

WANTED: GROUP VICE PRESIDENT Responsibilities include 
coordinating finance, marketing, product line development in several 
divisions. Must have demonstrated ability to apply sound management 
control. Report to Exec. VP, multi-line international company. TYPING 

Executives, by contrast, are likely to resist sullyins their fingertips, just 
as they resist fetching their own mues of coffee. And knowing that 
speech-recognition equipment is 


around the comer, so that they will be able to dictate and have the 
machine do all the typing, they will resist learning how to handle a 
keyboard all the more. 

Whether they do so or not, the unevadable fact remains that Third 
Wave production in the office, as it collides with the old Second Wave 
systems, will produce anxiety and conflict as well as reorganization, 
restructuring, and — for some — rebirth into new careers and 
opportunities. The new systems will challenge all the old executive 

turfs, the hierarchies, the sexual role divisions, the departmental 
barriers of the past. 

All of this has raised many fears. Opinion divides sharply between 
those who insist that millions of jobs will simply vanish (or that today's 
secretaries will mainly be reduced to mechanical slaves) and a more 
sanguine view widely held in the word processing industry, and 
expressed by Randy Gold-field, a principal of the Booz Allen & 

Hamilton consulting firm. According to Ms. Goldfield, secretaries, far 
from being reduced to mindless, repetitive processors, will become 
"para-principals," sharing in some of the professional work and 
decision-making from which they have been largely excluded until now. 
More likely we will see a sharp division between those white-collar 
workers who move up to more responsible positions and those who 
move down — and eventually out. 

What, then, happens to these people — and to the economy in general? 
During the late 1950's and early 1960's, when automation first began 
arriving on the scene, economists and trade unionists in many 
countries forecast massive unemployment. Instead, employment in the 
high-technology nations expanded. As the manufacturing sector 
shrank the white-collar and service sectors expanded, taking up the 
slack. But if manufacturing continues to shrink, and if office 
employment is to be put through the wringer at the same time, where 
will the jobs of tomorrow come from? 

Nobody knows. Despite endless studies and vehement claims, the 
forecasts and the evidence are contradictory. Attempts to relate 
investment in mechanization and automation to levels of manufacturing 
employment show what the Financial Times of London calls an "almost 
complete lack of correlation." Between 1963 and 1973 Japan had the 
highest rate of investment in new technology, as a percentage of value 
added, of any country in a seven-nation study. It also had the highest 
growth in employment. Britain, whose investment in machinery was the 
lowest, showed the greatest loss of jobs. 



The American experience roughly paralleled that of Japan — iirlmology 
and new jobs both increasing — while Sweden, l-ranee, West Germany, 
and Italy all showed markedly individual patterns, 

It is clear that the level of employment is not merely a re-flrciion of 
technological advance. It does not simply rise and full as we automate 
or fail to do so. Employment is the net result of many converging 

Pressures on the job market may well increase dramatically in the 
years ahead. But it is naive to single out the computer as their source. 

What is certain is that both the office and the factory are destined to be 
revolutionized in the decades ahead. The twin revolutions in the white- 
collar sector and in manufacture add up to nothing less than a wholly 
new mode of production for society — a giant step for the human race. 

This step carries with it indescribably complex implications. It will affect 
not only such things as the level of employment and the structure of 
industry but also the distribution of political and economic power, the 
size of our work units, the international division of labor, the role of 
women in the economy, the nature of work, and the divorce of 
producer from consumer; it will even alter so seemingly simple a fact 
as the "where" of work. 




Hidden inside our advance to a new production system is a potential 
for social change so breathtaking in scope that few among us have 
been willing to face its meaning. For we are about to revolutionize our 
homes as well. 

Apart from encouraging smaller work units, apart from permitting a 
decentralization and de-urbanization of production, apart from altering 
the actual character of work, the new production system could shift 
literally millions of jobs out of the factories and offices into which the 
Second Wave swept them and right back where they came from 
originally: the home. If this were to happen, every institution we know, 
from the family to the school and the corporation, would be 

Watching masses of peasants scything a field three hundred years 
ago, only a madman would have dreamed that the time would soon 
come when the fields would be depopulated, when people would 
crowd into urban factories to earn their daily bread. And only a 
madman would have been right. Today it takes an act of courage to 
suggest that our biggest factories and office towers may, within our 
lifetimes, stand half empty, reduced to use as ghostly warehouses or 
converted into living space. Yet this is precisely what the new mode of 
production makes possible: a return to cottage industry on a new, 
higher, electronic basis, and with it a new emphasis on the home as 
the center of society. 

To suggest that millions of us may soon spend our time at home, 
instead of going out to an office or factory, is to unleash an immediate 
shower of objections. And there are many 194 



sensible reasons for skepticism. "People don't want to work at home, 
even if they could. Look at all the women struggling to get out of the 
home and into a job!" "How can you get imy work done with kids 
running around?" "People won't be motivated unless there's a boss 
watching them." "People need l;ice-to-face contact with each other to 
develop the trust and confidence necessary to work together." "The 
architecture of the average home isn't set up for it." "What do you 
mean work til home — a small blast furnace in every basement?" "What 

iibout zoning restrictions and landlords who object?" "The unions will 
kill the idea." "How about the tax collector? The tax people are getting 
tougher on deductions claimed for working at home." And the ultimate 
stopper: "What, and slay home all day with my wife (or husband)?" 

Even old Karl Marx would have frowned. Working at home, he 
believed, was a reactionary form of production because "the 
agglomeration in one workshop" was "a necessary condition for the 
division of labor in society." In short, there were, and are, many 
reasons (and pseudoreasons) for regarding the whole idea as silly. 


Yet there were equally, if not more, compelling reasons three hundred 
years ago to believe people would never move out of the home and 
field to work in factories. After all, they had labored in their own 
cottages and the nearby land for 10,000 years, not a mere 300. The 
entire structure of family life, the process of child-rearing and 
personality formation, the whole system of property and power, the 
culture, the daily struggle for existence were all bound to the hearth 
and the soil by a thousand invisible chains. Yet these chains were 
slashed in short order as soon as a new system of production 

Today that is happening again, and a whole group of social and 
economic forces are converging to transfer the locus of work. 

To begin with, the shift from Second Wave manufacturing to the new, 
more advanced Third Wave manufacturing reduces, as we just saw, 
the number of workers who actually have to manipulate physical 
goods. This means that even in the manufacturing sector an increasing 
amount of work is being done that — given the right configuration of 



nicatiom and other equipment — could be accomplished anywhere, 
including one's own living room. Nor is this just a science fiction 

When Western Electric shifted from producing electromechanical 
switching equipment for the phone company to making electronic 
switching gear, the work force at its advanced manufacturing facility in 
northern Illinois was transformed. Before the changeover, production 
workers outnumbered white-collar and technical workers three to one. 
Today the ratio is one to one. This means that fully half of the 2,000 
workers now handle information instead of things, and much of their 
work can be done at home. Dorn Cuomo, director of engineering at the 
Northern Illinois facility, put it flatly: "If you include engineers, ten to 
twenty-five percent of what is done here could be done at home with 
existing technology." 

Cuomo's manager of engineering, Gerald Mitchell, went even further. 
"All told," he stated, "600 to 700 of the 2,000 could now — with existing 

technology — work at home. And in five years, we could go far beyond 

These informed "guesstimates" are remarkably similar to those made 
by Dar Howard, manufacturing manager of the Hewlett-Packard factory 
in Colorado Springs: "We have 1,-000 in actual manufacturing. 
Technologically, maybe 250 of them could work at home. The logistics 
would be complicated, but the tooling and capital equipment would not 
prevent it. In white collar research and development, if you're willing to 
invest in [computer] terminals, one half to three quarters could also 
work at home." At Hewlett-Packard that would add up to an additional 
350 to 520 workers. 

All told, it means that fully 35 to 50 percent of the entire work force in 
this advanced manufacturing center could even now do most, if not all, 
their work at home, providing one chose to organize production that 
way. Third Wave manufacturing, Marx notwithstanding, does not 
require 1 00 percent of the work force to be concentrated in the 

Nor are such estimates found in electronic industries alone or in giant 
enterprises. According to Peter Tattle, vice-president of Ortho 
Pharmaceutical (Canada) Ltd., the question is not "How many can be 
permitted to work at home?" but rather, "How many have to work in the 
office or factory?" Speaking of the 300 employed in his plant, Tattle 
says: "Fully 75 percent could work at home if we provided the 
necessary communications technology." Clearly, what applies 



to electronics and Pharmaceuticals also applies to other advanced 

If significant numbers of employees in the manufacturing sector could 
be shifted to the home even now, then it is safe to say that a 
considerable slice of the white-collar sector — where there are no 
materials to handle — could also make that transition. 

Indeed, an unmeasured but appreciable amount of work is already 
being done at home by such people as salesmen and saleswomen 
who work by phone or visit, and only occasionally touch base at the 
office; by architects and designers; by a burgeoning pool of specialized 
consultants in many industries; by large numbers of human-service 
workers like therapists or psychologists; by music teachers and 
language instructors; by art dealers, investment counselors, insurance 
agents, lawyers, and academic researchers; and by many other 
categories of white-collar, technical, and professional people. 

These are, moreover, among the most rapidly expanding work 
classifications, and when we suddenly make available technologies 
that can place a low-cost "work station" in any home, providing it with a 
"smart" typewriter, perhaps, along with a facsimile machine or 
computer console and teleconferencing equipment, the possibilities for 
home work are radically extended. 

Given such equipment, who might be the first to make the transition 
from centralized work to the "electronic cottage"? While it would be a 
mistake to underestimate the need for direct face-to-face contact in 
business, and all the subliminal and nonverbal communication that 
accompanies that contact, it is also true that certain tasks do not 
require much outside contact at all — or need it only intermittently. 

Thus "low-abstraction" office workers for the most part perform tasks — 
entering data, typing, retrieving, totaling columns of figures, preparing 
invoices, and the like — that require few, if any, direct face-to-face 
transactions. They could perhaps be most easily shifted into the 
electronic cottage. Many of the "ultrahigh-abstraction" workers — 
researchers, for example, and economists, policy formulators, 
organizational designers — require both high-density contact with peers 
and colleagues and 'times to work alone. There are times when even 
deal-makers need to back off and do their "homework." 

Nathaniel Samuels, an advisory director of the Lehman Brothers Kuhn 
Loeb investment banking house, agrees. Sam- 



uels, who already works at home 50 to 75 days a year, contends that 
"future technology will increase the amount of 'homework.'" Indeed, 
many companies are already relaxing their insistence that work be 
done in the office. When Weyerhaeuser, the great timber-products 
company, needed a new brochure on employee conduct not long ago, 
Vice-President R. L. Siegel and three of his staff members met at his 
home for almost a week until they had hammered out a draft. "We felt 
we needed to get out [of the office], to avoid the distractions," says 
Siegel. "Working at home is consistent with our shift toward flexible 
hours," he adds. "The important thing is getting your job done. It's 
incidental to us where you do it." 

According to the Wall Street Journal, Weyerhaeuser is not alone. 
"Many other companies also are letting their employees work at 
home," the newspaper reports, among them United Airlines, whose 
director of public relations allows his staff people to write at home as 
much as 20 days a year. Even McDonald's, whose lower-rung 
employees are needed to staff the hamburger grills, encourages home 
work among some top executives. 

"Do you really need an office as such at all?" asks Booz Allen & 
Hamilton's Harvey Poppel. In an unpublished forecast, Poppel 
suggests that "by the 1990s, two-way communications capability [will 
have been] enhanced sufficiently to encourage a widespread practice 
of working at home." His view is supported by many other researchers, 
like Robert F. Latham, a long-range planner at Bell Canada in 
Montreal. According to Latham, "As information jobs proliferate and 
communications facilities improve, the number of people who may 
work at home or at local work centres will also increase." 

Similarly, Hollis Vail, a management consultant for the United States 
Department of the Interior, asserts that by the mid-1980's, "tomorrow's 
word-processing centers" could easily be in one's own home"; he has 
written a scenario describing how a secretary, "Jane Adams," 
employed by the "Afgar Company" could work at home, meeting her 
boss only periodically to "talk over problems, and, of course, to attend 
office parties." 

This same view is shared by the Institute for the Future, which, as early 
as 1971, surveyed 150 experts in "leading edge" companies dealing 
with the new information technologies, and spelled out five different 
categories of work that could be transferred to the home. 



Given the necessary tools, the IFF found, many of the present duties of 
the secretary "could be done from home as well as in the office. Such a 
system would increase the labor pool by allowing married secretaries 
caring for small children ;it home to continue to work. . . . There may be 
no overriding reason why a secretary could not just as well, in many 
instances, take dictation at home and type the text on a home terminal 
which produces a clean text at the author's home or office." 

In addition, IFF continued, "Many of the tasks performed by engineers, 
draftsmen, and other white-collar employees might be done from home 
as readily as, or sometimes more readily than, from the office." One 
"seed of the future" exists nlready in Britain, for example, where a 
company called F. International Ltd. (the "F" stands for Freelance) 
employs 400 part-time computer programmers, all but a handful of 
whom work in their own homes. The company, which organizes teams 
of programmers for industry, has expanded to Holland and 
Scandinavia and counts among its clients such giants as British Steel, 
Shell, and Unilever. "Home computer programming," writes the 
Guardian newspaper, is "the cottage industry of the 1980s." 

In short, as the Third Wave sweeps across society, we find more and 
more companies that can be described, in the words of one 
researcher, as nothing but "people huddled around a computer." Put 
the computer in people's homes, and they no longer need to huddle. 
Third Wave white-collar work, like Third Wave manufacturing, will not 
require 1 00 percent of the work force to be concentrated in the 

One should not-underestimate the difficulties entailed in transferring 
work from its Second Wave locations in factory and office to its Third 
Wave location in the home. Problems of motivation and management, 
of corporate and social reorganization will make the shift both 
prolonged and, perhaps, painful. Nor can all communication be 
handled vicariously. Some jobs — especially those involving creative 
deal-making, where each decision is nonroutine — require much face- 
to-face contact. Thus Michael Koerner, President of Canada Overseas 
Investments, Ltd,, says, "We all need to be within a thousand feet of 
one another." 


Nevertheless, powerful forces are converging to promote the electronic 
cottage. The most immediately apparent is the economic trade-off 
between transportation and telecommunication. Most high-technology 
nations are now experiencing a transportation crisis, with mass transit 
systems strained to the breaking point, roads and highways clogged, 
parking spaces rare, pollution a serious problem, strikes and 
breakdowns almost routine, and costs skyrocketing. 

The escalating costs of commuting are borne by the individual workers. 
But they are, of course, indirectly passed on to the employer in the 
form of higher wage costs, and to the consumer in higher prices. Jack 
Nilles and a team sponsored by the National Science Foundation have 
worked out both the dollar and the energy savings that would flow from 
any substantial shift of white-collar jobs out of centralized downtown 
offices. Instead of assuming the jobs would go into the homes of 
employees, the Nilles group used what might be termed a halfway- 
house model, assuming only that jobs would be dispersed into 
neighborhood work centers closer to employee homes. 

The implications of their findings are startling. Studying 2,-048 
insurance company employees in Los Angeles, the Nilles group found 
that each person, on average, traveled 21 .4 miles a day to and from 
work (as against a national average of 18.8 miles for urban workers in 
the United States). The higher up the managerial scale, the longer the 
commute, with top executives averaging 33.2 miles. All told, these 
workers drove 12.4 million miles each year to get to work, using up 
nearly a half-century's worth of hours to do so. 

At 1974 prices, this cost twenty-two cents per mile, or a total of 
$2,730,000 — an amount borne indirectly by the company and its 
customers. Indeed, Nilles found that the company was paying its 
downtown workers $520 a year more than the going rate in the 
dispersed locations — in effect, "a subsidy of transportation costs." It 
was also providing parking spaces and other costly services made 
necessary by the centralized location. If we now assume a secretary 
was earning in the neighborhood of $10,000 a year, the elimination of 
this commuting cost could have permitted the company to hire nearly 
300 additional employees or, alternatively, to add a substantial amount 
to profits. 

The key question is: When will the cost of installing and 

operating telecommunications equipment fall below the present cost of 
commuting? While gasoline and other transport costs (including the 
costs of mass-transit alternatives to the auto) are soaring everywhere, 
the price of telecommunications is shrinking spectacularly.* At some 
point the curves must cross. 

But these are not the only forces subtly moving us toward the 
geographical dispersal of production and, ultimately, the electronic 

cottage of the future. The Nilles team found that the average American 
urban commuter uses the gasoline equivalent of 64.6 kilowatts of 
energy to get back and forth to work each day. (The Los Angeles 
insurance employees burned 37.4 million kilowatts a year in 
commuting.) By contrast, it takes far less energy to move information. 

A typical computer terminal uses only 100 to 125 watts or less when it 
is in operation, and a phone line consumes only one watt or less while 
it is in use. Making certain assumptions about how much 
communications equipment would be needed, and how long it would 
operate, Nilles calculated that "the relative energy consumption 
advantage of telecommuting over commuting (i.e., the ratio of 
commuting energy consumption to telecommuting consumption) is at 
least 29:1 when the private automobile is used; 1 1 :1 when normally 
loaded mass transit is used; and 2:1 for 100 per cent utilized mass 
transit systems." 

Carried to their conclusion, these calculations showed that in 1975, 
had even as little as 12 to 14 percent of urban commuting been 
replaced by telecommuting, the United States would have saved 
approximately 75 million barrels of gasoline — and would have thereby 
completely eliminated the need to import any gasoline from abroad. 
The implications of that one fact for the U.S. balance of payments and 
for Middle East politics might also have been more than trivial. 

As gasoline prices and energy costs in general rise in the decades 
immediately ahead, both the dollar cost and energy costs of operating 
"smart" typewriters, telecopiers, audio and video links, and home-size 
computer consoles will plummet, 

* Satellites slash the cost of long-distance transmission, bringing it so 
near the zero mark per signal that engineers now speak of "distance- 
independent" communications. Computer power has multiplied 
exponentially and prices have dropped so dramatically that engineers 
and Investors alike are left gasping. With fiber optics and other new 
breakthrough technologies hi the wings, it is clear that still further cost 
reductions lie ahead — per unit of memory, per processing step, and 
per signal transmitted. 

still further increasing the relative advantage of moving at least some 
production out of the large central workshops that dominated the 
Second Wave era. 

All these mounting pressures toward telecommuting will intensify as 
intermittent gas shortages, odd-even days, long lines at the fuel pump, 
and perhaps rationing disrupt and delay normal commuting, further 
jacking up its cost in both social and economic terms. 

To this we can add even more pressures tending in the same direction. 
Corporate and government employers will discover that shifting work 
into the home — or into local or neighborhood work centers as a 
halfway measure — can sharply reduce the huge amounts now spent 
for real estate. The smaller the central offices and manufacturing 
facilities become, the smaller the real estate bill, and the smaller the 
costs of heating, cooling, lighting, policing, and maintaining them. As 

land, commercial and industrial real estate, and the associated tax load 
all soar, the hope of reducing and/or externalizing these costs will favor 
the farming-out of work. 

The transfer of work and the reduction of commuting will also reduce 
pollution and therefore the tab for cleaning it up. The more successful 
environmentalists become at compelling companies to pay for their 
own pollution, the more incentive there will be to shift to low-polluting 
activities, and therefore from large-scale, centralized workplaces to 
smaller work centers or, better yet, into the home. 

Beyond this, as environmentalists and conservation-minded citizens 
groups battle against the destructive effects of the auto, and oppose 
road and highway construction, or succeed in banning cars from 
certain districts, they unwittingly support the transfer of work. The net 
effect of their efforts is to force up the already high cost and personal 
inconvenience of transport as against the low cost and convenience of 

When environmentalists discover the ecological disparities between 
these two alternatives, and as the shift of work to the home begins to 
look like a real option, they will throw their weight behind this important 
decentralist move and help coax us into the civilization of the Third 

Social factors, too, support the move to the electronic cottage. The 
shorter the workday becomes, the longer the commuting time in 
relationship to it. The employee who hates to spend an hour getting to 
and from the job in order to spend eight hours working may very well 
refuse to invest the same 



commuting time if the hours spent on the job are cut. The higher the 
ratio of commuting time to working time, the more irrational, frustrating, 
and absurd the process of shuttling back and forth. As resistance to 
commuting rises, employers will indirectly have to increase the 
premium paid to workers in the big, centralized work locations, as 
against those willing to take less pay for less travel time, 
inconvenience, and cost. Once again there will be greater incentive to 
transfer work. 

Finally, deep value changes are moving in the same direction. Quite 
apart from the growth of privatism and the new allure of small-city and 
rural life, we are witnessing a basic shift in attitude toward the family 
unit. The nuclear family, the standard, socially approved family form 
throughout the Second Wave period, is clearly in crisis. We shall 
explore the family of the future in the next chapter. For now, we need 
only note that in the United States and Europe — wherever the 
transition out of the nuclear family is most advanced — there is a 
swelling demand for action to glue the family unit together again. And it 
is worth observing that one of the things that has bound families tightly 
together through history has been shared work. 

Even today one suspects that divorce rates are lower among couples 
who work together. The electronic cottage raises once more on a mass 
scale the possibility of husbands and wives, and perhaps even 
children, working together as a unit. And when campaigners for family 
life discover the possibilities inherent in the transfer of work to the 
home we may well see a rising demand for political measures to speed 
up the process — tax incentives, for example, and new conceptions of 
workers! rights. 

During the early days of the Second Wave era, the workers' movement 
fought for a "Ten Hour Day," a demand that would have been almost 
incomprehensible during the First Wave period. Soon we may see the 
rise of movements demanding that all work that can be done at home 
be done at home. Many workers will insist on that option as a right. 
And, to the degree that this relocation of work is seen as strengthening 
family life, their demand will receive strong support from people of 
many different political, religious, and cultural persuasions. 

The fight for the electronic cottage is part of the larger super-struggle 
between the Second Wave past and the Third Wave future, and it is 
likely to bring together not merely 



technologists and corporations eager to exploit the new technical 
possibilities but a wide range of other forces — environmentalists, labor 
reformers of a new style, and a broad coalition of organizations, from 
conservative churches to radical feminists and mainstream political 
groups — in support of what may well be seen as a new, more 
satisfactory future for the family. The electronic cottage may thus 
emerge as a key rallying point of the Third Wave forces of tomorrow. 


If the electronic cottage were to spread, a chain of consequences of 
great importance would flow through society. Many of these 
consequences would please the most ardent environmentalist or 
techno-rebel, while at the same time opening new options for business 

Community Impact: Work at home involving any sizeable fraction of the 
population could mean greater community stability — a goal that now 
seems beyond our reach in many high-change regions. If employees 
can perform some or all of their work tasks at home, they do not have 
to move every time they change jobs, as many are compelled to do 
today. They can simply plug into a different computer. 

This implies less forced mobility, less stress on the individual, fewer 
transient human relationships, and greater participation in community 
life. Today when a family moves into a community, suspecting that it 
will be moving out again in a year or two, its members are markedly 
reluctant to join neighborhood organizations, to make deep friendships, 
to engage in local politics, and to commit themselves to community life 
generally. The electronic cottage could help restore a sense of 

community belonging, and touch off a renaissance among voluntary 
organizations like churches, women's groups, lodges, clubs, athletic 
and youth organizations. The electronic cottage could mean more of 
what sociologists, with their love of German jargon, call gemeinschaft. 

Environmental Impact: The transfer of work, or any part of it, into the 
home could not only reduce energy requirements, as suggested 
above, but could also lead to energy decentralization. Instead of 
requiring highly concentrated amounts of energy in a few high-rise 
offices or sprawling factory complexes, and therefore requiring highly 
centralized energy generation, the electronic cottage system would 


out energy demand and thus make it easier to use solar, wind, and 
other alternative energy technologies. Small-scale energy generation 
units in each home could substitute for at least some of the centralized 
energy now required. This implies a decline in pollution as well, for two 
reasons: first, the switch to renewable energy sources on a small-scale 
basis eliminates the need for high-polluting fuels, and second, it means 
smaller releases of highly concentrated pollutants that overload the 
environment at a few critical locations. 

Economic Impact: Some businesses would shrink in such a system, 
and others proliferate or grow. Clearly, the electronics and computer 
and communications industries would flourish. By contrast, the oil 
companies, the auto industry, and commercial real estate developers 
would be hurt. A whole new group of small-scale computer stores and 
information services would spring up; the postal service, by contrast, 
would shrink. Papermakers would do less well; most service industries 
and white-collar industries would benefit. 

At a deeper level, if individuals came to own their own electronic 
terminals and equipment, purchased perhaps on credit, they would 
become, in effect, independent entrepreneurs rather than classical 
employees — meaning, as it were, increased ownership of the "means 
of production" by the worker. We might also see groups of home- 
workers organize themselves into small companies to contract for their 
services or, for that matter, unite in cooperatives that jointly own the 
machines. All sorts of new relationships and organizational forms 
become possible. 

Psychological Impact: The picture of a work world that is increasingly 
dependent upon abstract symbols conjures up an overcerebral work 
environment that is alien to us and, at one level, more impersonal than 
at present. But at a different level, work at home suggests a deepening 
of face-to-face and emotional relationships in both the home and the 
neighborhood. Rather than a world of purely vicarious human 
relationships, with an electric screen interposed between the individual 
and the rest of humanity, as imagined in many science fiction stories, 
one can postulate a world divided into two sets of human 
relationships — one real, the other vicarious — with different rules and 
roles in each. 

No doubt we will experiment with many variations and halfway 
measures. Many people will work at home part-time and outside the 
home as well. Dispersed work centers will no doubt proliferate. Some 
people will work at home for months 



or years, then switch to an outside job, and then perhaps switch back 
again. Patterns of leadership and management will have to change. 
Small firms would undoubtedly spring up to contract for white-collar 
tasks from larger firms and take on specialized responsibilities for 
organizing, training, and managing teams of homeworkers. To 
maintain adequate liaison among them, perhaps such small companies 
will organize parties, social occasions, and other joint holidays, so that 
the members of a team get to know one another face-to-face, not 
merely through the console or keyboard. 

Certainly not everyone can or will (or will want to) work at home. 
Certainly we face a conflict over pay scales and opportunity cost. What 
happens to the society when an increased amount of human 
interaction on the job is vicarious while face-to-face, emotion-to- 
emotion interaction intensifies in the home? What about cities? What 
happens to the unemployment figures? What, in fact, do we mean by 
the terms "employment" and "unemployment" in such a system? It 
would be naive to dismiss such questions and problems. 

But if there are unanswered questions and possibly painful difficulties, 
there are also new possibilities. The leap to a new system of 
production is likely to render irrelevant many of the most intractable 
problems of the passing era. The misery of feudal toil, for example, 
could not be alleviated within the system of feudal agriculture. It was 
not eliminated by peasant revolts, by altruistic nobles, or by religious 
Utopians. Toil remained miserable until it was altered entirely by the 
arrival of the factory system, with its own strikingly different drawbacks. 

In turn, the characteristic problems of industrial society — from 
unemployment to grinding monotony on the job, to overspecialization, 
to the callous treatment of the individual, to low wages — may, despite 
the best intentions and promises of job enlargers, trade unions, benign 
employers, or revolutionary workers' parties, be wholly unresolvable 
within the framework of the Second Wave production system. If such 
problems have remained for 300 years, under both capitalist and 
socialist arrangements, there is cause to think they may be inherent in 
the mode of production. 

The leap to a new production system in both manufacturing and the 
white-collar sector, and the possible breakthrough to the electronic 
cottage, promise to change all the existing terms of debate, making 
obsolete most of the issues over 



which men and women today argue, struggle, and sometimes die. 

We cannot today know if, in fact, the electronic cottage will become the 
norm of the future. Nevertheless, it is worth recognizing that if as few 
as 10 to 20 percent of the work force as presently defined were to 
make this historic transfer over the next 20 to 30 years, our entire 
economy, our cities, our ecology, our family structure, our values, and 
even our politics would be altered almost beyond our recognition. 

It is a possibility — a plausibility, perhaps — to be pondered. 

It is not possible to see in relationship to one another a number of 
Third Wave changes usually examined in isolation. We see a 
transformation of our technological system and our energy base into a 
new techno-sphere. This is occurring at the same time that we are de- 
massifying the mass media and building an intelligent environment, 
thus revolutionizing the info-sphere as well. In turn, these two giant 
currents flow together to change the deep structure of our production 
system, altering the nature of work in factory and office and, ultimately, 
carrying us toward the transfer of work back into the home. 

By themselves, such massive historical shifts would easily justify the 
claim that we are on the edge of a new civiliza-lion. But we are 
simultaneously restructuring our social life ns well, from our family ties 
and friendships to our schools nnd corporations. We are about to 
create, alongside the Third Wave techno-sphere and info-sphere, a 
Third Wave socio-sphere as well. 



During the Great Depression of the 1930's millions of men were thrown 
out of work. As factory doors clanged shut against them, many plunged 
into extremes of despair and guilt, their egos shattered by the pink 
layoff slip. 

Eventually unemployment came to be seen in a more sensible light — 
not as the result of individual laziness or moral failure but of giant 
forces outside the individual's control. The maldistribution of wealth, 
myopic investment, runaway speculation, stupid trade policies, inept 
government — these, not the personal weakness of laid-off workers, 
caused unemployment. Feelings of guilt were, in most cases, naively 

Today, once more, egos are breaking like eggshells against the wall. 
Now, however, the guilt is associated with the frac- ture of the family 
rather than the economy. As millions of men and women clamber out 
of the strewn wreckage of their marriages they, too, suffer agonies of 
self-blame. And once more, much of the guilt is misplaced. 

When a tiny minority is involved, the crack-up of their families may 
reflect individual failures. But when divorce, separation, and other 
forms of familial disaster overtake millions at once in many countries, it 
is absurd to think the causes are purely personal. 

The fracture of the family today is, in fact, part of the general crisis of 
industrialism — the crack-up of all the institutions spawned by the 
Second Wave. It is part of the ground-clearing for a new Third Wave 
socio-sphere. And it is this 208 



traumatic process, reflected in our individual lives, that is alining the 
family system beyond recognition. 

Today we are told repeatedly that "the family" is falling iipart or that 
"the family" is our Number One Problem. I'resident Jimmy Carter 
declares, "It is clear that the national Kovernment should have a pro- 
family policy. . . . There can in- no more urgent priority." Substitute 
preachers, prime min-isiers, or the press, and the pious rhetoric comes 
out very much the same. When they speak of "the family," however, 
ilicy typically do not mean the family in all its luxuriant variety of 
possible forms, but one particular type of family: the Second Wave 

What they usually have in mind is a husband-breadwinner, n wife- 
housekeeper, and a number of small children. While many other family 
types exist, it was this particular family form — the nuclear family — that 
Second Wave civilization idealized, made dominant, and spread 
around the world. 

This type of family became the standard, socially approved model 
because its structure perfectly fitted the needs of a mass-production 
society with widely shared values and life-Niyles, hierarchical, 
bureaucratic power, and a clear separation of home life from work life 
hi the marketplace. 

Today, when the authorities urge us to "restore" the family it is this 
Second Wave nuclear family they usually have hi mind. By thinking so 
narrowly they not only misdiagnose the entire problem, they reveal a 
childish naivete about what Nil ps would actually be required to restore 
the nuclear family to its former importance. 

Thus the authorities frantically blame the family crisis on everything 
from "smut peddlers" to rock music. Some tell us dial opposing 
abortion or wiping out sex education or resist-mi' feminism will glue the 
family back together again. Or 1 1 iey urge courses in "family 
education." The chief United Males government statistician on family 
matters wants "more rllective training" to teach people how to marry 
more wisely, «>i else a "scientifically tested and appealing system for 
select-iiii- a marriage partner." What we need, say others, are more 
marriage counselors or even more public relations to give the i innly a 
better image! Blind to the ways in which historical I wuvcs of change 
influence us, they come up with well-inten-i M 'iied, often inane 
proposals that utterly miss the target. 



If we really want to restore the nuclear family to its former dominance, 
there are things we could do. Here are a few: 

1) Freeze all technology in its Second Wave stage to maintain a 
factory -based, mass-production society. Begin by smashing the 
computer. The computer is a greater threat to the Second Wave family 
than all the abortion laws and gay rights movements and pornography 
in the world, for the nuclear family needs the mass-production system 
to retain ite dominance, and the computer is moving us beyond mass 
pro* duction. 

2) Subsidize manufacture and block the rise of the service sector in the 
economy. White-collar, professional, and technical workers are less 
traditional, less family-oriented, more intellectually and psychologically 
mobile than blue-collar workers. Divorce rates have risen along with 
the rise service occupations. 

3) "Solve" the energy crisis by applying nuclear and other highly 
centralized energy processes. The nuclear family fits better in a 
centralized than a decentralized society, and energy systems heavily 
affect the degree of social and political centralization. 

4) Ban the increasingly de-massified media, beginning with cable 
television and cassette, but not overlooking local a regional 
magazines. Nuclear families work best where there is a national 
consensus on information and values, not in a society based on high 
diversity. While some critics naively attack the media for allegedly 
undermining the family, it was the mass media that idealized the 
nuclear family form hi the first place. 

5) Forcibly drive women back into the kitchen. Reduce the wages of 
women to the absolute minimum. Strengthen, rather than relax, all 
union seniority provisions to assure that women are further 
disadvantaged in the labor force. The m* clear family has no nucleus 
when there are no adults left ai home. (One could, of course, achieve 
the same effect by reversing matters, permitting women to work while 
compellinl men to stay home and rear the children.) 

6) Simultaneously slash the wages of young workers tc make them 
more dependent, for a longer time, on thei] families — and thus less 
psychologically independent. The nu- 



• li-;ir family is further denuclearized when the young leave I'.m-ntal 
control to go to work. 

7) Ban contraception and research into reproductive biology. These 
make for the independence of women and for ex-ii ,imarital sex, a 
notorious loosener of nuclear ties. 

«S) Cut the standard of living of the entire society to pre-l"S5 levels, 
since affluence makes it possible for single people, divorced people, 
working women, and other unat-i.u hcd individuals to "make it" 
economically on their own. i in; nuclear family needs a touch of poverty 
(not too much, 1 1 «i loo little) to sustain it. 

I>) Finally, re-massify our rapidly de-massifying society, by (existing all 
changes — in politics, the arts, education, business, or other fields — that 
lead toward diversity, freedom of movement and ideas, or individuality. 
The nuclear family remains 

• lominant only in a mass society. 

In short, this is what a pro-family policy would have to be II we insist on 
defining family as nuclear. If we truly wish to it-store the Second Wave 
family, we had better be prepared lo restore Second Wave civilization 
as a whole — to freeze not only technology but history itself. 

For what we are witnessing is not the death of the family us such, but 
the final fracture of the Second Wave family sys-feni in which all 
families were supposed to emulate the ideal-i/ed nuclear model, and 
the emergence in its place of a iliversity of family forms. Just as we are 
de-massif ying our media and our production, we are de-massifying the 
family NY stem in the transition to a Third Wave civilization. 


The coming of the Third Wave, of course, does not mean i IK; end of 
the nuclear family any more than the coming of flu; vSecond Wave 
meant the end of the extended family. It means, rather, that the nuclear 
family can no longer serve as UK- ideal model for society. 

The little-appreciated fact is that, at least in the United Slates where 
the Third Wave is most advanced, most people already live outside the 
classical nuclear family form. 

If we define the nuclear family as a working husband, a housekeeping 
wife, and two children, and ask how many Americans actually still live 
in this type of family, the answer i'i astonishing: 7 percent of the total 
United States popula- 



tion. Ninety-three percent of the population do not fit this ideal Second 
Wave model any longer. 

Even if we broaden our definition to include families in which both 
spouses work or in which there are fewer or more than two children, 
we find the vast majority — as many as two thirds to three quarters of 
the population — living outside the nuclear situation. Moreover, all the 
evidence suggests that nuclear households (however we choose to 
define them) are still shrinking in number as other family forms rapidly 

To begin with, we are witnessing a population explosion of "solos" — 
people who live alone, outside a family altogether. Between 1970 and 
1978 the number of persons aged fourteen to thirty-four who lived 
alone nearly tripled in the United States — rising from 1.5 million to 4.3 
million. Today, a fifth of all households in the United States consists of 
a person living solo. Nor are all these people losers or loners, forced 
into the solo life. Many deliberately choose it, at least for a time. Says a 
legislative aide to a Seattle councilwoman, "I would consider marriage 
if the right person came along, but I would not give up my career for it." 
In the meantime she lives alone. She is part of a large class of young 
adults who are leaving home earlier but marrying later, thus creating 
what census specialist Arthur Norton says is a "transitional living 
phase" that is "becoming an acceptable part of one's life cycle.'* 

Looking at an older slice of the population, we find a large number of 
formerly married people, often "between mar-* riages," living on their 
own and, in many cases, decidedly liking it. The growth of such groups 
has created a nourishing "singles" culture and a much publicized 
proliferation of bars; ski lodges, travel tours, and other services or 
products designed for the independent individual. Simultaneously, the 
real estate industry has come up with "singles only" condo-minia, and 
has begun to respond to a need for smaller apartments and suburban 
homes with fewer bedrooms. Almost a fifth of all home buyers in the 
United States today are single. 

We are also experiencing a headlong growth in the number of people 
living together without bothering about legal formalities. This group has 
more than doubled in the past decade, according to United States 
authorities. The practice has become so common that the United 
States Department of Housing and Urban Development has 
overthrown tradition and changed its rules to permit such couples to 
occupy public housing. The courts, meanwhile, from Connecticut to 
Califor A 


nia, are wrestling with the legal and property complications (hat spring 
up when such couples "divorce." Etiquette columnists write about 
which names to use in addressing partners, and "couple counseling" 
has sprouted as a new professional service alongside marriage 


Another significant change has been the growth in the number of those 
consciously choosing what is coming to be known as a "child-free" life- 
style. According to James Ramey, senior research associate at the 
Center for Policy Research, we are seeing a massive shift from "child- 
centered" to "adult-centered" homes. At the turn of the century there 
were few singles in society, and relatively few parents lived very long 
after their youngest child left the home. Thus most households were, in 
fact, child-centered. By contrast, as early as 1970 in the United States 
only one in three adults lived in a home with children under eighteen. 

Today organizations are springing up to promote the child-free life, and 
a reluctance to have children is spreading in many industrial nations. In 
1960 only 20 percent of "ever-married" American women under age 
thirty were child-free. By 1975 this had shot up to 32 percent — a 60 
percent jump in fifteen years. A vocal organization, the National 
Alliance for Optional Parenthood, has arisen to protect the rights of the 
childless and to combat pronatalist propaganda. 

A similar organization, the National Association for the Childless, has 
sprouted in Britain, and many couples across Europe are also 
deliberately choosing to remain childless. In Bonn, West Germany, for 
example, Theo and Agnes Rohl, both in their mid-thirties, he a city 
official, she a secretary, say, "We don't think well have children . . ." 
The Rohls are modestly affluent. They own a small home. They 
manage a vacation trip to California or Southern France now and then. 
Children would drastically alter their way of life. "We're used to our life- 
style the way it is," they say, "and we like being independent." Nor is 
this reluctance to bear children a sign of capitalist decadence. Ijt is 
present in the Soviet Union, too, where many young Russian couples 
echo the sentiments of the Rohls and explicitly reject parenthood — a 
fact that worries Soviet officialdom in view of the still-high birth rates 
among several non-Russian national minorities. 



Turning now to those with children, the breakdown of the nuclear 
family is even more sharply evidenced in the spectacular increase in 
single-parent families. So many divorces, breakups, and separations 
have occurred in recent years — mainly in nuclear families — that today 
a staggering one-in-seven American children is raised by a single 
parent, and the number is even higher — one in four — in urban areas.* 

The increase in such households has brought a growing recognition 
that, despite severe problems, a one-parent household can, under 
certain circumstances, be better for the child than a nuclear household 
continually torn by bitter strife. Newspapers and organizations now 
serve single parents and are heightening their group consciousness 
and political clout. 

Nor, once again, is the phenomenon purely American. In Britain today 
nearly one family in ten is headed by a single parent — nearly a sixth of 
them headed by men — and one-parent households form what New 
Society magazine calls "the fastest growing group in poverty." A 
London-based organization, the National Council for One-Parent 
Families, has sprung up to champion their cause. 

In Germany, a housing association in Cologne has constructed a 
special block of apartments for such families and provided them with 
day-time child care so the parents can work. And in Scandinavia a 
network of special welfare rights has grown up to support these 
families. The Swedes, for example, give one-parent households first 
crack at nursery and day-care facilities. In both Norway and Sweden, 
in fact, it is sometimes possible for a single-parent family to enjoy a 
higher standard of living than that of the typical nuclear family. 

A challenging new form of family has arisen in the meantime that 
reflects the high rate of remarriage after divorce. In Future Shock I 
identified this as the "aggregate family," in which two divorced couples 
with children remarry, bringing the children of both marriages (and the 
adults as well) into a new, expanded family form. It is now estimated 
that 25 percent of American children are, or will soon be, members of 
such family units. According to Davidyne Mayleas, such units, with 
their "poly-parents," may be the mainstream family form of tomorrow. 
"We're into economic polygamy," says Mayleas — meaning that the two 
merged family units 

* The total is also fed by out-of-wedlock births and by adoptions by 
single women and (increasingly) single men. 



typically transfer money back and forth in the form of child support or 
other payments. The spread of this family form, she reports, has been 
accompanied by a rising incidence of sexual relations between parents 
and nonblood-related children. 

The technologically advanced nations today are honeycombed with a 
bewildering array of family forms: Homosexual marriages, communes, 
groups of elderly people banding together to share expenses (and 
sometimes sex), tribal groupings among certain ethnic minorities, and 
many other forms coexist as never before. There are contract 
marriages, serial marriages, family clusters, and a variety of intimate 
networks with or without shared sex, as well as families in which 
mother and father live and work in two different cities. 

Even these family forms barely hint at the even richer variety bubbling 
under the surface. When three psychiatrists — Kellam, Ensminger, and 
Turner — attempted to map the "variations of families" found in a single 
poor black neighborhood in Chicago, they identified "no less than 86 
different combinations of adults," including numerous forms of "mother- 
grandmother" families, "mother-aunt" families, "mother-stepfather 
families," and "mother-other" families. 

Faced with this veritable maze of kinship arrangements, even fairly 
orthodox scholars have come around to the once radical view that we 
are moving out of the age of the nuclear family and into a new society 
marked by diversity hi family life. In the words of sociologist Jessie 
Bernard, "The most characteristic aspect of marriage in the future will 
be precisely the array of options available to different people who want 
different things from their relationships with one another." 

The frequently asked question, "What is the future of the family?" 
usually implies that as the Second Wave nuclear family loses its 
dominance some other form will replace it. A more likely outcome is 
that during Third Wave civilization no single form will dominate the 
family mix for any long period. Instead we will see a high variety of 

family structures. Rather than masses of people living in uniform family 
arrangements, we shall see people moving through this system, 
tracing personalized or-"customized" trajectories during the course of 
their lives. 

Again, this does not mean the total elimination or "death" of the nuclear 
family. It merely means that from now on the nuclear family will be only 
one of the many socially accepted 



and approved forms. As the Third Wave sweeps in, the family system 
is becoming de-massified right along with the production system and 
the information system in society. 


Given this flowering of a multiplicity of family forms, it is too early to tell 
which will emerge as significant styles in a Third Wave civilization. 

Will our children live alone for many years, perhaps decades? Will they 
go childless? Will we retire into old-age communes? What about more 
exotic possibilities? Families wit several husbands and one wife? (That 
could happen if genetic tinkering lets us preselect the sex of our 
children, and too many parents choose boys.) What about homosexual 
families raising children? The courts are already debating this issue. 
What about the potential impact of cloning? 

If each of us moves through a trajectory of family experiences in our 
lives, what will the phases be? A trial marriage, followed by a dual- 
career marriage with no children, then a homosexual marriage with 
children? The possible permutations are endless. Nor, despite the 
cries of outrage, should any of these be regarded as unthinkable. As 
Jessie Bernard has put it, "There is literally nothing about marriage 
that' anyone can imagine that has not in fact taken place. ... All these 
variations seeemed quite natural to those who lived with them." 

Which specific family forms vanish and which ones proliferate will 
depend less on pulpit-pounding about the "sanctity, of the family" than 
on the decisions we make with respect to i technology and work. While 
many forces influence family structure — communication patterns, 
values, demographic changes, religious movements, even ecological 
shifts — the linkage between family form and work arrangements is 
particularly strong. Thus, just as the nuclear family was pro-moted by 
the rise of the factory and office work, any shift away from the factory 
and office would also exert a heavy in-fluence on the family. 

It is impossible, in the space of a single chapter, to spell out all the 
ways in which the coming changes in the labor force and in the nature 
of work will alter family life. But one change is so potentially 
revolutionary, and so alien to our ex-perience, it needs far more 
attention than it has received so 



far. This is, of course, the shift of work out of the office and factory and 
back into the home. 

Assume for a moment that twenty-five years from now 15 percent of 
the work force is employed part- or full-time in the home. How would 
working at home change the quality of our personal relationships or the 
meaning of love? What would life be like in the electronic cottage? 

Whether the work-at-home task is programming a computer, writing a 
pamphlet, monitoring distant manufacturing processes, designing a 
building, or typing electronic correspondence, one immediate change 
is clear. Relocating work into the home means that many spouses who 
now see each other only a limited number of hours each day would be 
thrown together more intimately. Some, no doubt, would find this 
prolonged proximity hateful. Many others, however, would find then* 
marriages saved and their relationships much enriched through shared 

Let us visit several electronic cottages to see how people might adapt 
to so fundamental a change in society. Such a tour would no doubt 
reveal a wide diversity of living and working arrangements. 

In some houses, perhaps the majority, we might well find couples 
dividing things up more or less conventionally, with one person doing 
the "job-work" while the other keeps house — he, perhaps, writing 
programs while she looks after the kids. The very presence of work hi 
the home, however, would probably encourage a sharing of both job- 
work and housekeeping. We would find many homes, therefore, in 
which man and wife split a single full-tune job. For example, we might 
find both husband and wife taking turns at monitoring a complex 
manufacturing process on the console screen in the den, four hours 
on, four hours off. 

Down the street, by contrast, we would likely discover a couple holding 
not one, but two quite different jobs, with each spouse working 
separately. A cellular physiologist and a CPA might each work at his or 
her craft. Even here, however, with the jobs differing sharply hi 
character, there is still likely to be some sharing of problems, some 
learning of each other's work vocabulary, some common concerns and 
conversation relating to work. It is almost impossible under such 
conditions for the work life of an individual to be strictly segregated 
from personal life. By the same token, it is next to impossible to freeze 
one's mate out of a whole dimension of one's existence. 



Right next door (continuing our survey) we could well come upon a 
couple holding two different jobs but sharing both, the husband 
working as a part-time insurance planner and part-time as an 
architect's assistant, with the wife doing the same work on alternating 

shifts. This arrangement would provide more varied, and therefore 
more interesting, work for both. 

In such homes, whether one or several jobs are shared, each partner 
necessarily learns from the other, participates in the problem-solving, 
engages in complex give-and-take, all of which cannot help but deepen 
intimacy. Forced proximity, it goes without saying, does not guarantee 
happiness. The extended family units of the First Wave era, which 
were also economic production units, were hardly models of 
interpersonal sensitivity and mutual psychological support. Such 
families had their own problems and stresses. But there were few 
uncommitted or "cooled out" relationships. Working together assured, if 
nothing else, tight, complex, "hot" personal relationships — a 
committedness many people envy today. 

In short, the spread of work-at-home on a large scale could not only 
affect family structure but transform relationships within the family. It 
could, to put it simply, provide a common set of experiences and get 
marriage partners talking to one another again. It could shift their 
relationships along the spectrum from "cool" to "hot." It could also 
redefine love itself and bring with it the concept of Love Plus. 


We saw how, as the Second Wave progressed, the family unit 
transferred many of its functions to other institutions — education to the 
school, care of the ill to hospitals, and so on. This progressive stripping 
away of the functions of the family unit was accompanied by the rise of 
romantic love. 

A First Wave person looking for a mate might properly have asked "Is 
my proposed spouse a good worker? A good healer? A good teacher 
for the children to come? Can we work together compatibly? Will she 
(or he) carry a full load or prove to be a shirker?" Peasant families 
actually asked "Is she strong, good at bending and lifting, or is she 
sickly and weak?" 

As the functions of the family were hived off during the Second Wave 
era, those questions changed. The family was 



no longer a combination of production team, school, field hospital, and 
nursing home. Instead, its psychological functions became more 
important. Marriage was supposed to supply companionship, sex, 
warmth, and support. Soon this shift in the functions of the family was 
reflected in new criteria for choosing a mate. They were summed up in 
the single word love. It was love, the popular culture assured us, that 
makes the world go round. 

Of course, real life seldom lived up to romantic fiction. Class, social 
status, and income continued to play a role in the choice of a mate. But 
all such considerations were supposed to be secondary to Love with a 
capital L. 

Tomorrow's rise of the electronic cottage may very well overthrow this 
single-minded logic. Those who look ahead to working at home with a 
spouse, instead of spending the main part of their waking lives away, 
are likely to take more into consideration than simple sexual and 
psychological gratification — or social status, for that matter. They may 
begin to insist on Love Plus — sexual and psychological gratification 
plus brains (as then- grandfathers once favored brawn), love plus 
conscientiousness, responsibility, self-discipline, or other work-related 
virtues. We may — who knows? — hear some John Denver of the future 
croon lyrics like: 

I love your eyes, your cherry lips, the love that always lingers, your way 
with words and random blips, your skilled computer fingers. 

More seriously, one can imagine at least some families of the future 
taking on additional functions rather than shedding them, and serving 
as a multipurpose, rather than a narrowly specialized, social unit. With 
such a change the criteria for marriage, the very definition of love 
would be transformed. 


Children, meanwhile, would also be likely to grow up differently in the 
electronic cottage, if for no other reason than that they would actually 
see work taking place. First Wave children, from then: first blink of 
consciousness, saw their parents at work. Second Wave children, by 
contrast — at least in recent generations — were segregated in schools 
and di- 



vorced from real work life. Most today have only the foggiest notion of 
what their parents do or how they live while at work. One possibly 
apocryphal story makes the point: An executive decides to bring his 
son to his office one day and to take him out to lunch. The boy sees 
the plushly carpeted office, the indirect lighting, the elegant reception 
room. He sees the fancy expense-account restaurant with its 
obsequious waiters and exorbitant prices. Finally, picturing their home 
and unable to restrain himself, the boy blurts out: "Daddy, how come 
you're so rich and we're so poor?" 

The fact is that children today — especially affluent children — are totally 
divorced from one of the most important dimensions of their parents' 
lives. In an electronic cottage kids not only observe work, they may, 
after a certain age, engage in it themselves. Second Wave restrictions 
on child labor — originally well-intentioned and necessary, but now 
largely an anachronistic device to keep young people out of the 
crowded job market — become more difficult to enforce in the home 
setting. Certain forms of work, indeed, might be specifically designed 
for youngsters and even integrated with their education. (Anyone who 
underestimates the capacity of even very young people to understand 
and cope with sophisticated work has not run into the fourteen- or 
fifteen-year-old boys who serve, probably illegally, as "salesmen" in 

California computer stores. I have had kids with braces still on their 
teeth explain the intricacies of home computing to me.) 

The alienation of youth today flows in large measure from being forced 
to accept a nonproductive role in society during an endlessly prolonged 
adolescence. The electronic cottage would counteract this situation. 

In fact, integrating young people into work in the electronic cottage 
may offer the only real solution to the problems of high youth 
unemployment. This problem will grow increasingly explosive in many 
countries .in the years ahead, with all the attendant evils of juvenile 
crime, violence, and psychological immiseration, and cannot be solved 
within the framework of a Second Wave economy except by totalitarian 
means — drafting young people, for example, for war or forced service. 
The electronic cottage opens an alternative way to bring youth back 
into socially and economically productive roles, and we may see, 
before long, political campaigns for, rather than against, child labor, 
along with struggles over the necessary measures to protect them 
against gross economic exploitation. 



Beyond this, one can easily imagine the work-at-home household 
becoming something radically different: an "electronic expanded 

Perhaps the most common family form in First Wave societies was the 
so-called extended family, which brought several generations together 
under the same roof. There were also "expanded families" which, in 
addition to the core members, included an unrelated orphan or two, an 
apprentice or additional farm hand, or others. One can likewise picture 
the work-at-home family of tomorrow inviting an outsider or two to join 
it — for example, a colleague from the husband's or wife's firm, or 
perhaps a customer or supplier engaged in related work, or, for that 
matter, a neighbor's child who wants to learn the trade. One can 
foresee the legal incorporation of such a family as a small business 
under special laws designed to foster the cornmune-cum-corporation 
or the cooperative. For many the household would become an 
electronic expanded family. 

It is true that most of the communes formed in the 1960's and 1970's 
fell rapidly apart, seeming to suggest that communes, as such, are 
inherently unstable in high-technology societies. A closer look reveals, 
however, that the ones that disintegrated most rapidly Were those 
organized primarily for psychological purposes — to promote 
interpersonal sensitivity, to combat loneliness, to provide intimacy, or 
the like. Most had no economic base and saw themselves as Utopian 
experiments. The communes that have succeeded over time — and 
some have — are, by contrast, those that have had a clear external 
mission, an economic base, and a practical, rather than purely 
Utopian, outlook. 

An external mission welds a group together. It may, indeed, provide 
the necessary economic base. If this external mission is to design a 

new product, to handle the "electronic paper work" for a hospital, to do 
the data processing for an insurance company department, to set up 
the scheduling for a commuter airline, to prepare catalogs, or to 
operate a technical information service, the electronic commune of 
tomorrow may, in fact, turn out to be a quite workable and stable family 

Moreover, since such electronic expanded families would not be 
designed as a rebuke to everyone else's life-style or for demonstration 
purposes but rather as an integral part of the 


main wiring of the economic system, the chances for their survival 
would be sharply improved. Indeed, we may find expanded households 
linking up to form networks. Such networks of expanded families could 
supply some needed business or social service, cooperating to market 
their work or setting up their own version of a trade association to 
represent them. Internally, they might or might not share sex across 
marriage lines. They might or might not be heterosexual. They might 
be childless or child-ful. 

In brief, what we see is the possible resurrection of the expanded 
family. Today some 6 percent of American adults live in ordinary 
extended families. One might easily imagine a doubling or tripling of 
this number in the next generation, with some units expanding to 
include outsiders. This would be no trivial event but a movement 
involving millions in the United States alone. For community life, for 
patterns of love and marriage, for the reconstitution of friendship 
networks, for the economy and the consumer marketplace, as well as 
for our psyches and personality structure, the rise of the electronic 
expanded family would be momentous. 

This new version of the extended family is not presented here as 
inevitable, not as better or worse than some other type of family, but 
simply as one example of the many new family forms likely to find 
viable niches in the complex social ecology of tomorrow. 


This rich diversity of family forms won't come into being without pain 
and anguish. For any change in family structure also forces change hi 
the roles we live. Every society, through its institutions, creates its own 
architecture of roles or social expectations. The corporation and trade 
union between them more or less defined what was expected of 
workers and bosses. Schools fixed the respective roles of teachers 
and pupils. And the Second Wave family allocated the roles of 
breadwinner, housekeeper, and child. As the nuclear family goes 
critical, so to speak, the roles associated with it begin to shiver and 
crack — with excruciating personal impact. 

From the day that Betty Friedan's bombshell book, The Feminine 
Mystique, launched the modern feminist movement in many nations, 
we have seen a painful struggle to redefine the roles of men and 
women in terms appropriate to a post- 



nuclear-family future. The expectations and the behavior of both sexes 
have shifted with respect to jobs, legal and financial rights, household 
responsibilities, and even sexual performance. "Now," writes Peter 
Knobler, editor of Crawdaddy, a rock music magazine, "a guy's got to 
contend with women breaking all the rules. . . . Many regulations need 
breaking," he adds, "but that doesn't make it much easier." 

Roles are shaken by the battle over abortion, for instance, as women 
insist that they — not politicians, not priests, not doctors or even 
husbands — have a right to control their bodies. Sexual roles are further 
blurred as homosexuals demand and partially win "gay rights." Even 
the role of the child in society is changing. Suddenly advocates spring 
up to lobby for a Children's Bill of Rights. 

Courts are swamped by cases involving role redefinition, as 
alternatives to the nuclear family multiply and gain acceptability. Do 
unmarried spouses have to share their property after they break up? 

Can a couple legally pay a woman to bear a child for them by artificial 
insemination? (A British court said no — but for how long?) Can a 
lesbian be a "good mother" and retain custody of her child after a 
divorce? (An American court says yes.) What is meant by being a good 
parent? Nothing underlines the changing role structure more than the 
lawsuit filed in Boulder, Colorado, by an angry twenty-four-year-old 
named Tom Hansen. Parents can make mistakes, Hansen's lawyers 
argued, but they must be held legally — and financially — responsible for 
the results. Thus Han-sen's court action claimed $350,000 hi damages 
on an unprecedented legal ground: parental malpractice. 


Behind all this confusion and turmoil, a new Third Wave family system 
is coalescing, based on a diversity of family forms and more varied 
individual roles. This de-massification of the family opens many new 
personal options. Third Wave civilization will not try to stuff everyone 
willy-nilly into a single family form. For this reason the emergent family 
system could free each of us to find his or her own niche, to select or 
create a family style or trajectory attuned to individualized needs. 

But before anyone can perform a celebratory dance, the 


agonies of transition must be dealt with. Caught in the crack-up of the 
old, with the new system not yet in place, millions find the higher level 
of diversity bewildering rather than helpful. Instead of being liberated, 
they suffer from overchoice and are wounded, embittered, plunged into 
a sorrow and loneliness intensified by the very multiplicity of their 

To make the new diversity work for us instead of against us, we will 
need changes on many levels at once, from morality and taxes to 
employment practices. 

In the field of values we need to begin removing the unwarranted guilt 
that accompanies the breakup and restructuring of families. Instead of 
exacerbating unjustified guilt, the media, the church, the courts, and 
the political system should be working to lower the guilt level. 

The decision to live outside a nuclear family framework should be 
made easier, not harder. Values change more slowly, as a rule, than 
social reality. Thus we have not yet developed the ethic of tolerance for 
diversity that a de-massified society will both require and engender. 
Raised under Second Wave conditions, firmly taught that one kind of 
family is "normal" and others somehow suspect, if not "deviant," vast 
numbers remain intolerant of the new variety hi family styles. Until that 
changes, the pain of transition will remain unnecessarily high. 

In economic and social life, individuals cannot enjoy the benefits of 
widened family options so long as laws, tax codes, welfare practices, 
school arrangements, housing codes, and even architectural forms all 
remain implicitly biased toward the Second Wave family. They take 
little account of the special needs of women who work, of men who 
stay home to take care of their children, of bachelors and "spinsters" 
(hateful term!), or of between-marrieds, or "aggregate families," or 
widows living alone or together. All such groupings have been subtly or 
openly discriminated against in Second Wave societies. 

Even while it piously praised housekeeping, Second Wave civilization 
denied dignity to the person performing that task. Housekeeping is 
productive, indeed crucial, work, and needs to be recognized as part of 
the economy. To assure the enhanced status of housekeeping, 
whether done by women or by men, by individuals or by groups 
working together, we will have to pay wages or impute economic value 
to it. 

In the out-of-the-home economy, employment practices in 



many places still are based on the obsolete assumption that (he man is 
the primary breadwinner and the wife a supplemental, expendable 
earner, instead of a fully independent participant in the labor market. 

By easing seniority requirements, by spreading flextime, by opening 
part-time opportunities, we not only humanize production, we adapt it 
to the needs of a multistyle family system. Today there are many 
indications that the work system is beginning to accommodate itself to 
the new diversity of family arrangements. Shortly after Citibank, one of 
the largest banks in the United States, began to promote women to 
managerial jobs, it found that its male executives were marrying their 
new colleagues. The bank had a long-standing rule barring the 
employment of couples. It had to change that rule. According to 
Business Week, the "company couple" is now flourishing with benefits 
both for company and for family life. 

It is likely that before long we will go far beyond such minor 
adaptations. We may see demands not merely for the hiring of 
"company couples" but of whole families to work together as a 
production team. Because this was inefficient hi the Second Wave 
factory doesn't mean it is necessarily inappropriate today. No one 
knows how such policies would work out but, as in other family 
matters, we ought to encourage, perhaps even publicly fund, small- 
scale experiments. 

Such measures could help us ease our way into tomorrow, minimizing 
for millions the pain of transition. But whether painful or not, a new 
family system is emergying to supplant the one that characterized the 
Second Wave past. This new family system will be a core institution in 
the novel socio-sphere taking shape alongside the new techno-sphere 
and info-sphere. It is part of the act of social creation by which our 
generation is adapting to and constructing a new civilization. 



The big corporation was the characteristic business organiza tion of 
the industrial era. Today several thousand such behe moths, both 
private and public, bestride the earth, producing a large proportion of 
all the goods and services we buy. 

Seen from the outside they present a commanding appar-ance. They 
control vast resources, employ millions of workers, and they deeply 
influence not merely our economies but our political affairs as well. 

Their computers and corporate jets, their unmatched ability to plan, to 
invest, to execute projects on a grand scale, make them seem 
unshakably powerful and permanent. At a time when most of us feel 
powerless, they appear to dominate our destinies. 

Yet that is not the way they look from the inside, to the men (and a few 
women) who run these organizations. Indeed, many of our top 
managers today feel quite as frustrated and powerless as the rest of 
us. For exactly like the nuclear family, the school, the mass media, and 
the other key institutions of the industrial age, the corporation is being 
hurled about, shaken and transformed by the Third Wave of change. 

And a good many top managers do not know what has hit them. 


The most immediate change affecting the corporation is the crisis in 
the world economy. For three hundred years Second Wave civilization 
worked to create an integrated global marketplace. Periodically these 
efforts were set back by wars, 226 



depressions, or other disasters. But each time the world economy 
recovered, emerging larger and more closely integrated than before. 

Today a new crisis has struck. But this one is different. Unlike all 
previous crises during the industrial era, it involves not only money but 
the entire energy base of the society. Unlike the crises of the past, it 
brings inflation and unemployment simultaneously, not sequentially. 
Unlike those of the past, it is directly linked to fundamental ecological 
problems, to an entirely new species of technology, and to the 
introduction of a new level of communications into the production 
system. Finally, it is not, as Marxists claim, a crisis of capitalism alone, 
but one that involves the socialist industrial nations as well. It is, in 
short, the general crisis of industrial civilization as a whole. 

The upheaval in the world economy threatens the survival of the 
corporation as we know it, throwing its managers into a wholly 
unfamiliar environment. Thus from the end of World War II until the 
early 1970's the corporation functioned in a comparatively stable 
environment. Growth was the key word. The dollar was king. 

Currencies remained stable for long periods. The postwar financial 
structure laid in place at Bretton Woods by the capitalist industrial 
powers, and the COMECON system created by the Soviets, seemed 
solid. The escalator to affluence was still ascending, and economists 
were so confident of their ability to predict and control the economic 
machine that they spoke casually about "fine tuning" it. 

Today the phrase evokes only derisive snorts. The President 
wisecracks that he knows a Georgia fortune-teller who is a -better 
forecaster than the economists. A former Secretary of the Treasury, W. 
Michael Blumenthal, says that "the economics profession is close to 
bankruptcy in understanding the present situation — before or after the 
fact" Standing in the tangled wreckage of economic theory and the 
rubble of the postwar economic infrastructure, corporate decision- 
makers face rising uncertainties. 

Interest rates zigzag. Currencies gyrate. Central banks buy and sell 
money by the carload to damp the swings, but the gyrations only grow 
more extreme. The dollar and the yen perform a Kabuki dance, the 
Europeans promote their own new currency (quaintly named the 
"ecu"), while Arabs frantically off-load billions of dollars worth of 
American paper. Gold prices break all records. 


While all of this is occurring, technology and communications 
restructure world markets, making transnational production both 
possible and necessary. And to facilitate such operations, a jet -age 
money system is taking form. A global electronic banking network — 
impossible before the computer and satellite — now instantaneously 
links Hong Kong, Manila, or Singapore with the Bahamas, the Cayman 
Islands, and New York. 

This sprawling network of banks, with its Citibanks and Barclays, its 
Sumitomos and Narodnys, not to mention Credit Suisse and the 
National Bank of Abu Dhabi, creates a balloon of "stateless 

currency" — money and credit outside the control of any individual 
government — which threatens to blow up in everyone's face. 

The bulk of this stateless currency consists of Eurodollars — dollars 
outside the United States. In 1975, writing about the accelerated 
growth of Eurodollars, I warned that this new currency was a wild card 
in the economic game. "Here the 'Euros' contribute to inflation, there 
they shift the balance of payments, in another place they undermine 
the currency — as they stampede from place to place" across na- : 
tional boundaries. At that time there were an estimated 180 j billion 
such Eurodollars. 

By 1978 a panicky Business Week was reporting on "the , incredible 
state" of the international finance system and the 180 billion had 
mushroomed into some 400 billion dollars worth of Eurodollars, 
Euromarks, Eurofrancs, Euroguilders, and Euroyen. Bankers dealing 
with the supranational cur- : rency were free to issue unlimited credit 
and — not being required to hold any cash reserves — were able to lend 
out at bargain-basement rates. Today's estimates put the Eurocurrency 
total as high as a trillion dollars. 

The Second Wave economic system in which the corporation grew up 
was based on national markets, national I currencies, and national 
governments. This nation-based infra- j structure, however, is utterly 
unable to regulate or contain the new transnational and electronic 
"Eurobubble." The structures designed for a Second Wave world are 
no longer adequate. 

Indeed, the entire global framework that stabilized world trade relations 
for the giant corporations is rattling and in danger of coming apart. The 
World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the General 
Agreement on Tariffs and Trade are all under heavy attack. Europeans 
scramble to bolt j 


together a new structure to be controlled by them. The "less developed 
countries" on one side, and the Arabs brandishing their petrodollars on 
the other, clamor for influence in the financial system of tomorrow and 
speak of creating their own counterparts to the IMF. The dollar is 
dethroned, and jerks and spasms rip through the world economy. 

All this is compounded by erratic shortages and gluts of energy and 
resources; by rapid changes in the attitudes of consumers, workers, 
and managers; by rapidly shifting imbalances of trade; and above all 
by the rising militancy of the non-industrial world. 

This is the volatile, confusing environment in which today's 
corporations struggle to operate. The managers who run them have no 
wish to relinquish corporate power. They will battle for profits, 
production, and personal advancement. But faced with soaring levels 
of unpredictability, with mounting public criticism and hostile political 
pressures, our most intelligent managers are questioning the goals, 
structure, responsibility, the very raison d'etre of their organizations. 

Many of our biggest corporations are experiencing something 
analogous to an identity crisis as they watch the once stable Second 
Wave framework disintegrate around them. 


This corporate identity crisis is intensified by the speed at which events 
are moving. For the very speed of change introduces a new element 
into management, forcing executives, already nervous in an unfamiliar 
environment, to make more and more decisions at a faster and faster 
pace. Response times are honed to a minimum. 

At the financial level the speed of transactions is accelerating as banks 
and other financial institutions computerize. Some banks even relocate 
geographically to take advantage of time zone differences. Says 
Euromoney, the international bankers' journal, "Time zones can be 
used as a competitive edge." 

In this hotted-up environment, the big corporations are driven almost 
willy-nilly to invest and borrow in various currencies not on an annual, 
a ninety-day, or even a seven-day basis, but literally on an overnight or 
minute-to-minute basis. A new corporate officer has appeared in the 
executive suite — the "international cash manager," who remains 


plugged into the worldwide electronic casino twenty-four hours a day, 
searching for the lowest interest rates, the best currency bargains, the 
fastest turnaround.* 

In marketing, a similar acceleration is evident. "Marketers must 
respond quickly in order to insure survival for tomorrow," declares 
Advertising Age, reporting that "Network TV programmers ... are 
accelerating their decisions on killing new TV series that show rating 
weaknesses. No more waiting six or seven weeks, or a season. . . . 
Another example: Johnson & Johnson learns that Bristol-Myers is 
determined to undersell J&J's Tylenol.. . Does J&J adopt a wait-and- 
see attitude? No. In an amazingly short time, it moves to cut Tylenol's 
prices in the stores. No more weeks or months for procrastination." 

The very prose is breathless. 

In engineering, in manufacture, in research, in sales, in training, in 
personnel, in every department and branch of the corporation the 
same quickening of decision-making can be detected. 

And once more we see a parallel process, though less advanced, in 
the socialist industrial nations. COMF.CON. which used to revise its 
prices every five years when it issued its five-year plan, has been 
forced to revise its prices annually in an attempt to keep up with the 
faster pace. Before long it will be six months, then even less. 

The results of this generalized speedup of the corporate metabolism 
are multiple: shorter product life-cycles, more leasing and renting, 
more frequent buying and selline, more ephemeral consumption 
patterns, more fads, more training time for workers (who must 
continually adjust to new procedures), more frequent changes in 

contracts, more negotiations and legal work, more pricing changes, 
more job turnover, more dependence on data, more ad hoc 
organization — all of it exacerbated by inflation. 

The result is a high-stakes, high-adrenaline business environment. 
Under these escalating pressures it is easy to see why so many 
businessmen, bankers, and corporate executives wonder what exactly 
they are doing and why. Brought up with Second Wave certainties, 
they see the world they knew tearing apart under the impact of an 
accelerating wave of change. 

* Nor is this function trivial. Like farmers who make more from selling 
land than from growing food, some major corporations are making 
more profit — or racking up greater losses — from currency and financial 
manipulation than from actual production. 




Even more mystifying and upsetting for them is the crack-up of the 
industrial mass society hi which they were trained to operate. Second 
Wave managers were taught that mass production is the most 
advanced and efficient form of production . . . that a mass market 
wants standardized goods . . . that mass distribution is essential . . . 
that "masses" of uniform workers are basically all alike and can be 
motivated by uniform incentives. The effective manager learned that 
synchronization, centralization, maximization, and concentration are 
necessary to achieve his goals. And in a Second Wave environment 
these assumptions are basically correct. 

Today, as the Third Wave strikes, the corporate manager finds all his 
old assumptions challenged. The mass society itself, for which the 
corporation was designed, is beginning to de-massify. Not merely 
information, production, and family life, but the marketplace and the 
labor market as well are beginning to break into smaller, more varied 

The mass market has split into ever-multiplying, ever-changing sets of 
mini-markets that demand a continually expanding range of options, 
models, types, sizes, colors, and customizations. Bell Telephone, 
which once hoped to put the same black telephone in every American 
home — and very nearly succeeded — now manufactures some one 
thousand combinations or permutations of telephone equipment from 
pink, green, or white phones to phones for the blind, phones for people 
who have lost the use of their larynx, and explosion-proof phones for 
construction sites. Department stores, originally designed to massify 
the market, now sprout "boutiques" under their roofs, and Phyllis 
Sewell, a vice president of Federated Department Stores, predicts that 
"we will be going into greater specialization . . . with more different 

The fast-increasing variety of goods and services in the high- 
technology nations is often explained away as an attempt by the 

corporation to manipulate the consumer, to invent false needs, and to 
inflate profits by charging a lot for trivial options. No doubt, there is 
truth to these charges. Yet something deeper is at work. For the 
growing differentiation of goods or services also reflects the growing 
diversity of actual needs, values, and life-styles in a de-massified Third 
Wave society. 

This rising level of social diversity is fed by further divi - 


sions in the labor market, as reflected in the proliferation of new 
occupations, especially in the white-collar and service fields. 
Newspaper want ads clamor for "Vydec Secretary" or "Mini-computer 
Programmer," while at a conference on the service professions I 
watched a psychologist list 68 new occupations from consumer 
advocate, public defender, and sex therapist to psycho-chemotherapist 
and ombudsman. 

As our jobs become less interchangeable, people do too. Refusing to 
be treated as interchangeable, they arrive at the workplace with an 
acute consciousness of their ethnic, religious, professional, sexual, 
subcultural, and individual differences. Groups that throughout the 
Second Wave era fought to be "integrated" or "assimilated" into mass 
society now refuse to melt their differences. They emphasize instead 
their unique characteristics. And Second Wave corporations, still 
organized for operation in a mass society, are still uncertain how to 
cope with this rising tide of diversity among their employees and 

Though sharply evident in the United States, social de-mas-sification is 
progressing rapidly elsewhere as well. In Britain, which once regarded 
itself as highly homogeneous, ethnic minorities, from Pakistanis, West 
Indians, Cypriots, and Ugandan Asians to Turks and Spaniards now 
intermingle with a native population itself becoming more 
heterogeneous. Meanwhile, a tidal influx of Japanese, American, 
German, Dutch, Arab, and African visitors leave in their wake 
American hamburger stands, Japanese tempura restaurants, and 
signs in store windows that read "Se Habla Espanol." 

Around the world, ethnic minorities reassert their identities and 
demand long-denied rights to jobs, income, and advancement in the 
corporation. Australian Aborigines, New Zealand Maoris, Canadian 
Eskimos, American Blacks, Chicanos, and even Oriental minorities 
once regarded as politically passive are on the move. From Maine to 
the Far West, Native Americans assert "Red Power," demand the 
restoration of tribal lands, and dicker with the OPEC countries for 
economic and political support. 

Even in Japan, long the most homogeneous of the nidus-trial nations, 
the signs of de-massification are mounting. An uneducated convict 
overnight emerges as spokesman for the small minority of Ainu people. 
The Korean minority grows restless, and sociologist Masaaki Takane 
of Sophia University says, "I have been haunted by an anxiety . . . 

Japanese society today is quickly losing its unity and its 



In Denmark scattered street fights break out between Danes and 
immigrant workers and between leather-jacketed motorcyclists and 
long-haired youth. In Belgium the Walloons, the Remish, and the 
Bruxelloises reactivate ancient, indeed preindustrial, rivalries. In 
Canada Quebec threatens to secede, corporations padlock their 
headquarters in Montreal, and English-speaking executives throughout 
the country take crash courses in French. 

The forces that made mass society have suddenly been thrown into 
reverse. Nationalism in the high-technology context becomes 
regionalism instead. The pressures of the melting pot are replaced by 
the new ethnicity. The media, instead of creating a mass culture, de- 
massify it. In turn all these developments parallel the emerging 
diversity of energy forms and the advance beyond mass production. 

All these interrelated changes create a totally new framework within 
which the production organizations of society, whether called 
corporations or socialist enterprises, will function. Executives who 
continue to think in terms of the mass society are shocked and 
confused by a world they no longer recognize. 


What deepens the identity crisis of the corporation still further is the 
emergence, against this already unsettling background, of a worldwide 
movement demanding not merely modest changes hi this or that 
corporate policy but a deep redefinition of its purposes. 

In'the United States, writes David Ewing, an editor of the Harvard 
Business Review, "public anger at corporations is beginning to well up 
at a frightening rate." Ewing cites a 1977 study by a research affiliate of 
the Harvard Business School whose findings, he says, "sent tremors 
throughout the corporate world." The study revealed that about half of 
all consumers polled believe they are getting worse treatment in the 
marketplace than they were a decade earlier; three fifths say that 
products have deteriorated; over half mistrust product guarantees. 

Ewing quotes a worried businessman as saying, "It feels like sitting on 
a San Andreas fault." 

Worse yet, Ewing continues, "growing numbers of people are not 
simply disenchanted, irritated or angry, but. . . irra- 


tionally and erratically afraid of new technologies and business 

According to John C. Biegler, an executive of Price Water-house, one 
of the giant blue-chip accounting firms, "public confidence in the 

American corporation is lower than at any time since the Great 
Depression. American business and the accounting profession are 
being called on the carpet for a kind of zero-based rejustification of just 
about everything we do. ... Corporate performance is being measured 
against new and unfamiliar norms." 

Similar tendencies are visible in Scandinavia, Western Europe, and 
even, sotto voce, in the socialist industrial nations. In Japan, as 
Toyota's official magazine puts it, "A citizens' movement of a type 
never before seen in Japan is gradually gathering momentum, one that 
criticizes the way corporations disrupt everyday life." 

Certainly corporations have come under scorching attack at other 
times in their history. Much of today's clamor of complaint, however, is 
crucially different and arises from the emerging values and 
assumptions of Third Wave civilization, not the dying industrial past. 

Throughout the Second Wave era corporations have been seen as 
economic units, and the attacks on them have essentially focused on 
economic issues. Critics assailed them for underpaying workers, 
overcharging customers, forming cartels to fix prices, making shoddy 
goods, and a thousand other economic transgressions. But no matter 
how violent, most of these critics accepted the corporation's self- 
definition: they shared the view of the corporation as an inherently 
economic institution. 

Today's corporate critics start from a totally different premise. They 
attack the artificial divorce of economics from politics, morality, and the 
other dimensions of life. They hold the corporation increasingly 
responsible, not merely for its economic performance but for its side 
effects on everything from air pollution to executive stress. 

Corporations are thus assailed for asbestos poisoning, for using poor 
populations as guinea pigs in drug testing, for distorting the 
development of the non-industrial world, for racism and sexism, for 
secrecy and deception. They are pilloried for supporting unsavory 
regimes or political parties, from the fascist generals in Chile and the 
racists in South Africa to the Communist party in Italy. 

What is at issue here is not whether such charges are justi- 



fled — all too often they are. What is far more important is I he concept 
of the corporation they imply. For the Third Wave brings with it a rising 
demand for a new kind of institution altogether — a corporation no 
longer responsible simply lor making a profit or producing goods but for 
simultaneously contributing to the solution of extremely complex 
ecological, moral, political, racial, sexual, and social problems. 

Instead of clinging to a sharply specialized economic function, the 
corporation, prodded by criticism, legislation, and its own concerned 
executives, is becoming a multipurpose institution. 


The redefinition is not a matter of choice but a necessary response to 
five revolutionary changes in the actual conditions of production. 
Changes in the physical environment, in the lineup of social forces, in 
the role of information, in government organization, and in morality are 
all pounding the corporation into a new, multi-faceted, multipurposeful 

The first of these new pressures springs from the biosphere. 

In the mid-1950's, when the Second Wave reached its mature stage in 
the United States, world population stood at only 2.75 billion. Today it 
is over 4 billion. In the mid-1950's the earth's population used a mere 
87 quadrillion Btu of energy a year. Today we use over 260 quadrillion. 
In the mid-50's, our consumption of a key raw material like zinc was 
only 2.7 million metric tons a year. Today it is 5.6 million. 

Measured any way we choose, our demands on the planet are 
escalating wildly. As a result the biosphere is sending us alarm 
signals — pollution, desertification, signs of toxification in the oceans, 
subtle shifts in climate — that we ignore at the risk of catastrophe. 
These warnings tell us we can no longer organize production as we did 
during the Second Wave past. 

Because the corporation is the main organizer of economic production, 
it is also a key "producer" of environmental impacts. If we want to 
continue our economic growth — indeed if we wish to survive — the 
managers of tomorrow will have to assume responsibility for converting 
the corporation's environmental impacts from negatives into positives. 
They will assume this added responsibility voluntarily or they will be 
compelled to do so, for the changed conditions of the biosphere make 
it necessary. The corporation is being trans- 



formed into an environmental, as well as an economic, institution — not 
by do-gooders, radicals, ecologists, or government bureaucrats, but by 
a material change in the relationship of production to the biosphere. 

The second pressure springs from a little-noticed change in the social 
environment in which the corporation finds itself. That environment is 
now far more organized than before. At one time each firm operated in 
what might be termed an un-derorganized society. Today the socio- 
sphere, especially in the United States, has leaped to a new level of 
organization. It is packed with a writhing, interacting mass of well- 
organized, often well-funded, associations, agencies, trade unions, and 
other groupings. 

In the United States today, some 1,370,000 companies interact with 
well over 90,000 schools and universities, 330,000 churches, and 
hundreds of thousands of branches of 13,000 national organizations, 
plus countless purely local environmental, social, religious, athletic, 
political, ethnic, and civic groups, each with its own agenda and 
priorities. It takes 144,-000 law firms to mediate all these relationships! 

In this densely crowded socio-sphere, every corporate action has 
repercussive impacts not merely on lonely or helpless individuals but 
on organized groups, many of them with professional staffs, a press of 
their own, access to the political system, and resources with which to 
hire experts, lawyers, and other assistance. 

In this finely strung socio-sphere, corporate decisions are closely 
scrutinized. "Social pollution” produced by the corporation in the form 
of unemployment, community disruption, forced mobility, and the like is 
instantly spotted, and pressures are placed on the corporation to 
assume far greater responsibility than ever before for its social, as well 
as economic, "products." 

A third set of pressures reflects the changed info-sphere. Thus, the de- 
massification of society means that far more information must be 
exchanged between social institutions — including the corporation — to 
maintain equilibria! relationships among them. Third Wave production 
methods further intensify the corporation's hunger for information as 
raw material. The firm thus sucks up data like a gigantic vacuum 
cleaner, processes it, and disseminates it to others in increasingly 
complex ways. As information becomes central to production, as 
"information managers" proliferate hi industry, the corpora- 



tion, by necessity, impacts on the informational environment exactly as 
it impacts on the physical and social environment. 

The new importance of information leads to conflict over the control of 
corporate data— battles over disclosure of more information to the 
public, demands for open accounting (of oil company production and 
profit figures, for example), more pressures for "truth in advertising*" or 
"truth in lending." For in the new era, "information impacts" become as 
serious a matter as environmental and social impacts, and the 
corporation is seen as an information producer as well as an economic 

A fourth pressure on the corporation arises from politics and the 
power-sphere. The rapid diversification of society and the acceleration 
of change are everywhere reflected in a tremendous complexification 
of government. The differentiation of society is mirrored in the 
differentiation of government, and each corporation must therefore 
interact with more and more specialized units of government. These 
units, badly coordinated and each with its own priorities, are, 
moreover, in a perpetual turmoil of reorganization. 

Jayne Baker Spain, a senior vice-president of Gulf Oil, has pointed out 
that as recently as ten or fifteen years ago, "There was no EPA. There 
was no EEOC. There was no ER-ISSA. There was no OSHA. There 
was no ERDA. There was no FEA." All these and many other 
government agencies have sprouted up since then. 

Every company thus finds itself increasingly ensnarled hi politics — 
local, regional, national, or even transnational. Conversely, every 
important corporate decision "produces" at least indirect political 
effects along with its other output, and is increasingly held responsible 
for them. 

Finally, as Second Wave civilization wanes and its value system 
shatters, a fifth pressure arises, affecting all institutions — including the 
corporation. This is a heightened moral pressure. Behavior once 
accepted as normal is suddenly reinterpreted as corrupt, immoral, or 
scandalous. Thus the Lockheed bribes topple a government in Japan. 
Olin Corporation is indicted for shipping arms to South Africa. Gulf Oil's 
chairman is forced to resign in the wake of a bribery scandal. The 
reluctance of Distillers Company in Britain to repay the victims of 
Thalidomide adequately, the failures of McDonnell Douglas with 
respect to the DC-10 — all trigger tidal waves of moral revulsion. 

The ethical stance of the corporation is increasingly seen as 



having a direct impact on the value system of the society, just as 
significant to some as the corporation's impact on the physical 
environment or the social system. The corporation is increasingly seen 
as a "producer" of moral effects. 

These five sweeping changes in both the material and non-material 
conditions of production make untenable the Second Wave school- 
book notion that a corporation is nothing but an economic institution. 
Under the new conditions the corporation can no longer operate as a 
machine for maximizing some economic function — whether production 
or profit. The very definition of "production" is being drastically 
expanded to include the side, as well as the central, effects, the long- 
range as well as the immediate effects, of corporate action. Put simply, 
every corporation has more "products" (and is now held responsible for 
more) than Second Wave managers ever had to consider — 
environmental, social, informational, political, and moral, not just 
economic products. 

The purpose of the corporation is thus changed from singular to 
plural — not just at the level of rhetoric or public relations but at the level 
of identity and self-definition as well. 

In corporation after corporation we can expect to see an internal battle 
between those who cleave to the single-purpose corporation of the 
Second Wave past and those who are ready to cope with the Third 
Wave conditions of production and to fight for the multipurpose 
corporation of tomorrow. 


Those of us brought up in Second Wave civilization nave a difficult 
time thinking of institutions in this way. We find it hard to think of a 
hospital as having economic as well as medical functions, a school as 

having political as well as educational functions — or a corporation as 
having powerful non-economic or "trans-economic" functions. That 
recently retired exemplar of Second Wave thinking, Henry Ford II, 
insists that the corporation "is a specialized instrument designed to 
serve the economic needs of society and is not well equipped to serve 
social needs unrelated to its business operations." But while Ford and 
other defenders of the Second Wave resist the redefinition of the 
production organiza- 



tion, many firms are, in fact, altering both their words and their policies. 

Lip service and public relations rhetoric often substitute for real 
change. Fancy promotional brochures proclaiming a new era of social 
responsibility very often camouflage a robber-baron rapacity. 
Nevertheless, a fundamental "paradigm shift" — a reconceptualization — 
of the structure, goals, and responsibilities of the corporation is taking 
place in response to new pressures brought by the Third Wave. The 
signs of this change are numerous. 

Amoco, a leading oil company, for example, states that "it is the policy 
of our company, with respect to plant locations, to supplement the 
routine economic evaluation with a detailed exploration of the social 
consequences. . . . We look at many factors, among them the impact 
on the physical environment, the impact on public facilities . . . and the 
impact on local employment conditions, particularly with respect to 
minorities." Amoco continues to weight economic considerations most 
heavily, but it assigns importance to other factors as well. And where 
alternative locations are simitar in economic terms but '.'different in 
terms of the social impact," these social factors can prove decisive. 

In the event of a merger proposal, the directors of Control Data 
Corporation, a top U.S. computer manufacturer, explicitly take into 
account not merely financial or economic considerations but "all 
relevant" factors — including the social effects of the merger and its 
impact on employees and the communities in which Control Data 
operates. And while other companies have been racing into the 
suburbs, Control Data has deliberately built its new plants in inner city 
areas of Washington, St. Paul, and Minneapolis, to help provide 
employment for minorities and to help revive urban centers. The 
corporation states its mission as "improving the quality, equality, and 
potential of people's lives" — equality being an unorthodox goal for a 

In the United States, the advancement of women and non-whites has 
become a long overdue matter of national policy, and some companies 
go so far as to reward their managers financially for meeting 
"affirmative action" targets. At Pillsbury, a leading food, company, each 
of its three product groups must present not only a sales plan for the 
following year but a plan relating to the hiring, training, and promotion 
of women and minority group members. Executive incentives are 
linked to the attainment of these social goals. At AT&T 



all managers are evaluated annually. Fulfillment of affirmative action 
objectives counts as part of a positive appraisal. At Chemical Bank in 
New York, 10 to 15 percent of a branch manager's job performance 
appraisal is based on her or his social performance — sitting on 
community agency boards, making loans to not-for-profit organizations, 
hiring and upgrading minorities. And at the Gannett chain of 
newspapers, chief executive Allen Neuharth brusquely tells editors and 
local publishers that "a major portion" of their bonuses will "be 
determined on the basis of progress in these . . . programs." 

Similarly, in many top corporations we see a distinct upgrading of the 
status and influence of executives concerned with the environmental 
consequences of corporate behavior. Some now report directly to the 
president. Other companies have set up special committees on the 
board of directors to define the new corporate responsibilities. 

This social responsiveness of the corporation is not all substance. 

Says Rosemary Bruner, director of community affairs at Hoffmann- 
LaRoche's American subsidiary, "Some of this is pure public relations, 
of course. Some is self-serving. But much of it actually does reflect a 
changed perception of corporate functions." Grudgingly, therefore, 
driven by protests, lawsuits, and fear of government action as well as 
by more laudable motives, managers are beginning to adapt to the 
new conditions of production and are accepting the idea that the 
corporation has multiple purposes. 


The multipurpose corporation that is emerging demands, among other 
things, smarter executives. It implies a management capable of 
specifying multiple goals, weighting them, interrelating them, and 
finding synergic policies that accomplish more than a single goal at a 
time. It requires policies that optimize not for one, but for several 
variables simultaneously. Nothing could be further from the single- 
minded style of the traditional Second Wave manager. 

Moreover, once the need for multiple goals is accepted we are 
compelled to invent new measures of performance. Instead of the 
single "bottom line" on which most executives have been taught to 
fixate, the Third Wave corporation requires attention to multiple bottom 
lines — social, environmen- 



lal, informational, political, and ethical bottom lines — all of Hi em 

Faced with this new complexity, many of today's managers are taken 
aback. They lack the intellectual tools necessary for Third Wave 
management. We know how to measure the profitability of a 

corporation, but how do we measure or evaluate the achievement of 
non-economic goals? Price Waterhouse's John C. Biegler says, 
managers "are being asked to account for corporate behavior in areas 
where no real standards of accountability have been established — 
where even the language of accountability has yet to be developed." 

This explains today's efforts to develop a new language of 
accountability. Indeed, accounting itself is on the edge of revolution 
and is about to explode out of Its narrowly economic terms of 

The American Accounting Association, for example, has issued reports 
of a "Committee on Non-Financial Measures of Effectiveness" and of a 
"Committee on Measures of Effectiveness for Social Programs." So 
much work is being done along these lines that each of these reports 
lists nearly 250 papers, monographs, and documents in its 

In Philadelphia, a consulting firm called the Human Resources Network 
is working with twelve major U.S. corporations to develop cross- 
industry methods for specifying what might be called the "trans- 
economic" goals of the corporation. It is trying to integrate these goals 
into corporate planning and to find ways of measuring the company's 
trans-economic performance. In Washington, meanwhile, the 
Secretary of Commerce, Juanita Kreps, raised a storm of controversy 
by suggesting that the government itself should prepare a "Social 
Performance Index," which she described as a "mechanism companies 
could use to assess their performance and its social consequences." 

Parallel work is under way in Europe. According to Meinolf Dierkes and 
Rob Coppock of the Berlin-based International Institute for 
Environment and Society, "Many large and medium-sized companies 
in Europe have been experimenting with [the social report] concept. ... 
In the Federal Republic of Germany, for example, about 20 of the 
largest firms now publish social reports regularly. In addition, more 
than a hundred others draw up social reports for internal management 

Some of these reports are no more than puff — accounts of the 
corporation's "good works," carefully overlooking contro- 



versial problems like pollution. But others are remarkably open, 
objective, and tough. Thus a social report issued by the giant Swiss 
food firm, Migros-Genossenschafts-Bund self-criti-cally confesses that 
it pays women less than men, that many of its jobs are "extremely 
boring," and that its nitrous dioxide emissions have risen over a four- 
year period. Says the company's managing director, Pierre Arnold, "It 
takes courage for an enterprise to point out the differences between its 
goals and its actual results." 

Companies like STEAG and the Saarbergwerke AG have pioneered 
the effort to relate company expenditures to specific social benefits. 

Less formally, companies like Bertelsmann AG, the publisher; Rank 
Xerox GmbH, the copier firm; and Hoechst AG, the chemical 
manufacturer, have radically broadened the kind of social data they 
make available to the public. 

A much more advanced system is employed by companies in Sweden 
and Switzerland and by Deutsche Shell AG in Germany. The latter, 
instead of publishing an annual report, now issues what it calls an 
Annual and Social Report in which both economic and trans-economic 
data are interrelated. The method used by Shell, termed "goal 
accounting and reporting" by Dierkes and Coppock, stipulates concrete 
economic, environmental, and social goals for the corporation, spells 
out the actions taken to achieve them, and reports the expenditures 
allocated to them. 

Shell also lists five overall corporate goals — only one of which is to 
achieve a "reasonable return on investment" — and specifically states 
that each of the five goals, economic and non-economic, must "carry 
the same weight" in corporate decision-making. The goal accounting 
method forces companies to make their trans-economic objectives, 
explicit, to specify time periods for their attainment, and to open this up 
to public review. 

On a broader theoretical level, Trevor Gambling, professor of 
accounting at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom, in a 
book called Societal Accounting has called for a radical reformulation 
of accounting that begins to integrate the work of economists and 
accountants with that of the social scientists who have developed 
social indicators and methods of social accounting. 

In Holland the Dean of the Graduate School of Management in Delft, 
Cornelius Brevoord, has designed a set of multidimensional criteria for 
monitoring corporate behavior. This 



is made necessary, he suggests, by deep value changes in the 
society, among them the change from "an economic production 
orientation" in society to "a total well-being orientation." Similarly, he 
notes a shift from "functional specialization to an interdisciplinary 
approach." Both these changes strengthen the need for a more 
rounded concept of the corporation. 

Brevoord lists 32 different criteria by which a corporation must 
measure its effectiveness. These range over its relationships with 
consumers, shareholders, and unions to those with ecology 
organizations and its own management. But, he points out, even these 
32 are only "a few" of the parameters along which the emerging 
corporation of the future will test itself. 

With the Second Wave economic infrastructure in a shambles, with 
change accelerating as de-massification spreads, with the biosphere 
sending danger signals, with the level of organization in society rising, 

and the informational, political, and ethical conditions of production 
changing, the Second Wave corporation is obsolete. 

What is happening, therefore, is a thoroughgoing reconcep-tualization 
of the meaning of production and of the institution that, until now, has 
been charged with organizing it. The result is a complex shift to a new- 
style corporation of tomorrow. In the words of William Halal, professor 
of management at American University, "Just as the feudal manor was 
replaced by the business corporation when agrarian societies were 
transformed into industrial societies, so too should the older model of 
the firm be replaced by a new form of economic institution. . . This 
new institution will combine economic and trans -economic objectives. 

It will have multiple bottom lines. 

The transformation of the corporation is part of the larger 
transformation of the socio-sphere as a whole, and this in turn parallels 
the dramatic changes in the techno-sphere and info-sphere. Taken 
together, they add up to a massive historical shift. But we are not 
merely altering these giant structures. We are also changing the way 
ordinary people, in their daily lives, behave. For when we change the 
deep structure of civilization, we simultaneously rewrite all the codes 
by which we live. 


In millions of middle-class homes a ritual drama is enacted: the 
recently graduated son or daughter arrives late for dinner, snarls, flings 
down the want ads, and proclaims the nine-to-five job a degrading 
sham and a shuck. No human being with even a shredlet of self- 
respect would submit to the nine-to-five regimen. 

Enter parents: 

The father, just returned from his own nine-to-five job, and the mother, 
exhausted and depressed from paying the latest batch of bills, are 
outraged. They have been through this before. Having seen good 
times and bad, they suggest a secure job with a big corporation. The 
young person sneers. Small companies are better. No company is best 
of all. An advanced degree? What for? It's all a terrible waste! 

Aghast, the parents see their suggestions dismissed one after another. 
Their frustration mounts until, at last, they utter the ultimate parental 
cry: "When are you going to face the real world?" 

Such scenes are not limited to affluent homes in the United States or 
even Europe. Japanese corporate moguls mutter in their sake" about 
the swift decline of the work ethic and corporate loyalty, of industrial 
punctuality and discipline among the young. Even in the Soviet Union 
middle-class parents face similar challenges from the youth. 

Is this just another case of epater les parents — the traditional 
generational conflict? Or is there something new here? Can it be that 
young people and their parents are simply not talking about the same 
"real world"? 244 



The fact is that what we are seeing is not merely the classical 
confrontation of romantic youth and realistic elders. Indeed, what was 
once realistic may no longer be. For the basic code of behavior, 
containing the ground rules of social life, is changing rapidly as the 
onrashing Third Wave arrives. 

We saw earlier how the Second Wave brought with it a "code book" of 
principles or rules that governed everyday behavior. Such principles as 
synchronization, standardization, or maximization were applied hi 
business, in government, and in a daily life obsessed with punctuality 
and schedules. 

Today a countercode book is emerging — new ground rules for the new 
life we are building on a de-massified economy, on de-massified 
media, on new family and corporate structures. Many of the seemingly 
senseless battles between young and old, as well as other conflicts in 
our classrooms, boardrooms, and political backrooms are, in fact, 
nothing more than clashes over which code book to apply. 

The new code book directly attacks much of what the Second Wave 
person has been taught to believe in — from the importance of 
punctuality and synchronization to the need for conformity and 
standardization. It challenges the presumed efficiency of centralization 
and professionalization. It compels us to reconsider our conviction that 
bigger is better and our notions of "concentration." To understand this 
new code, and how it contrasts with the old one, is to understand 
instantly many of the otherwise confusing conflicts that swirl around us, 
exhausting our energies and threatening our personal power, prestige, 
or paycheck. 


Take the case of the frustrated parents. Second Wave civilization, as 
we saw, synchronized daily life, tying the rhythms of sleep and 
wakefulness, of work and play, to the underlying throb of machines. 
Raised in this civilization, the parents take for granted that work must 
be synchronized, that everyone must arrive and work at the same tune, 
that rush-hour traffic is'unavoidable, that meal times must be fixed, and 
that children must, at an early age, be indoctrinated with time- 
consciousness and punctuality. They cannot understand why their 
offspring seem so annoyingly casual about keeping appointments and 
why, if the nine-to-five job (or other fixed- 



schedule job) was good enough in the past, it should suddenly be 
regarded as intolerable by their children. 

The reason is that the Third Wave, as it sweeps in, carries with it a 
completely different sense of tune. If the Second Wave tied life to the 
tempo of the machine, the Third Wave challenges this mechanical 

synchronization, alters our most basic social rhythms, and in so doing 
frees us from the machine. 

Once we understand this, it comes as no surprise that one of the 
fastest-spreading innovations in industry during the 1970's was 
"fiextime" — an arrangement that permits workers, within predetermined 
limits, to choose their own working hours. Instead of requiring 
everyone to arrive at the factory gate or the office at the same time, or 
even at pre-fixed staggered times, the company operating on fiextime 
typically sets certain core hours when everyone is expected to show 
up, and specifies other hours as flexible. Each employee may choose 
which of the flexible hours he or she wishes to spend working. 

This means that a "day person" — a person whose biological rhythms 
routinely awaken him or her early in the morning — can choose to arrive 
at work at, say, 8:00 A.M., while a "night person," whose metabolism is 
different, can choose to start working at 10:00 or 10:30 A.M. It means 
that an employee can take tune off for household chores, or to shop, or 
to take a child to the doctor. Groups of workers who wish to go bowling 
together early in the morning or late in the afternoon can jointly set 
then* schedules to make it possible. In short, time itself is being de- 

The flextime movement began in 1965 when a woman economist in 
Germany, Christel Kammerer, recommended it as a way to bring more 
mothers into the job market. In 1967 Masserschmitt-Bolkow-Blohm, the 
"Deutsche Boeing," discovered that many of its workers were arriving 
at work worn out from fighting rush-hour traffic. Management gingerly 
experimented by allowing 2,000 workers to go off the rigid eight-to-five 
schedule and to choose their own hours. Within two years all 12,000 of 
its employees were on flextime and some departments had even given 
up the requirements for everyone to be there during core time. 

In 1972 Europa magazine reported that ". . . in some 2,-000 West 
German firms, the national concept of rigid punctuality has vanished 
beyond recall. . . . The reason is the introduction of Gleitzeit"; i.e., 
"sliding" or "flexible" hours. By 1977 fully a fourth of the West German 
work force, more 



than 5,000,000 employees in all, were on one or another form of 
flextime, and the system was being used by 22,000 companies with an 
estimated 4,000,000 workers in France, Finland, Denmark, Sweden, 
Italy, and Great Britain. In Switzerland, 15 to 20 percent of all industrial 
firms had switched to the new system for all or part of their work force. 

Multinational firms (a major force for cultural diffusion in today's world) 
soon began exporting the system from Europe. Nestle and Lufthansa, 
for example, introduced it to their operations in the United States. By 
1977, according to a report prepared for the American Management 
Association by Professor Stanley Nollen and consultant Virginia Martin, 
13 percent of all U.S. companies were using flexible hours. Within a 
few years, they forecast, the number will reach 17 percent, 

representing more than 8,000,000 workers. Among the American firms 
trying out flextime systems are such giants as Scott Paper, Bank of 
California, General Motors, Bristol-Myers, and Equitable Life. 

Some of the more moss-backed trade unions — preservers of the 
Second Wave status quo — have hesitated. But individual workers, by 
and large, see flextime as a liberating influence. Says the manager of 
one London-based insurance firm: "The young married women were 
absolutely rapturous about the change-over." A Swiss survey found 
that fully 95 percent of affected workers approve. Thirty-five percent — 
men more than women — say they now spend more time with the 

One Black mother working for a Boston bank was on the verge of 
being fired because — although a good worker in other respects — she 
was continually turning up late. Her poor attendance record reinforced 
racist stereotypes about the "unreliability" and "laziness" of Black 
workers. But when her office went on flextime she was no longer 
considered late. It turned out, reported sociologist Allen R. Cohen, "that 
she'd been late because she had to drop her son in a day-care center 
and could just never get to the office by starting time." 

Employers, for their part, report higher productivity, reduced 
absenteeism, and other benefits. There are, of course, problems, as 
with any innovation, but according to the AMA survey only 2 percent of 
the companies trying it have gone back to the old rigid time structure. 
One Lufthansa manager summed it up succinctly: "There's no such 
thing now as a punctuality problem." 



But flextime, while widely publicized, is only a small part of the general 
restructuring of time that the Third Wave carries with it. We are also 
seeing a powerful shift toward increased night work. This is occurring 
not so much in the traditional manufacturing centers like Akron or 
Baltimore, which have always had a lot of workers on night shifts, but 
in the rapidly expanding services and in the advanced, computer- 
based industries. 

"The modern city," declares the French newspaper Le Monde, "is a 
Gorgon that never sleeps and in which ... a growing proportion of the 
citizens work outside the [normal] diurnal rhythms." Across the board in 
the technological nations the number of night workers now runs 
between 15 and -25 percent of all employees. In France, for example, 
the percentage has soared from only 12 in 1957 to 21 by 1974. In the 
United States the number of full-time night workers jumped 13 percent 
between 1974 and 1977; the total, including part-timers, reached 13.5 

Even more dramatic has been the spread of part-time work — and the 
active preference for it expressed by large numbers of people. In the 
Detroit area an estimated 65 percent of the total work force at the J. L. 
Hudson department stores consists of part-timers. Prudential 
Insurance employs some 1,600 part-timers in its U.S. and Canadian 

offices. In all, there is now one voluntary part-time worker for every five 
full-timers in the United States, and the part-time work force has been 
growing twice as fast as the full-time force since 1954. 

So far has this process advanced that a 1977 study by researchers at 
Georgetown University suggested that in the future almost all jobs 
could be part-time. Entitled Permanent Part-Time Employment: The 
Manager's Perspective, the study covered 68 corporations, more than 
half of which already used part-timers. Even more noteworthy is the 
fact that the percentage of unemployed workers who want only part- 
time work has doubled in the past twenty years. 

The opening up of part-time jobs is particularly welcomed by women, 
by the elderly and semi-retired, and by many young people who are 
willing to settle for a smaller paycheck in return for time to pursue their 
own hobbies, sports, or religious, artistic, or political interests. 

What we see, therefore, is a fundamental break with Sec- 



ond Wave synchronization. The combination of flextime, part-time, and 
night work means that more and more people are working outside the 
nine-to-five (or any fixed schedule) system, and that the entire society 
is shifting to round-the-clock operations. 

New consumer patterns, meanwhile, directly parallel changes in the 
time structure of production. Note, for instance, the proliferation of all- 
night supermarkets. "Will the 4 A.M. shopper, long considered a 
hallmark of California kook-iness, become a regular feature of life in 
the less flamboyant East?" asks The New York Times. The answer is a 
resounding "Yes!" 

A spokesman for a supermarket chain in the eastern United States 
says his company will keep its stores open all night because ‘‘people 
are staying up later than they used to." The Times feature writer 
spends a night at a typical store and reports on the varied customers 
who take advantage of the late hours: a truck driver whose wife is ill 
shops for his family of six, a young woman on her way to a 
postmidnight date pops by to purchase a greeting card, a man up late 
with a sick daughter rushes in to buy her a toy banjo and stops to pick 
up a hibachi as well, a woman drops by after her ceramics class to do 
the week's shopping, a motorcyclist roars up at 3:00 A.M. to buy a 
deck of cards, two men straggle in at dawn on their way to go fishing.... 

Mealtimes are also affected by these changes and are similarly 
desynchronized. People do not all eat at the same time, as most of 
them once did. The rigid three-meal-a-day pattern is broken as more 
and more fast-food shops spring up, serving billions of meals at all 
hours. Television watching changes, too, as programmers devise 
shows specifically aimed at "urban adults, night workers, and just plain 
insomniacs." Banks, meanwhile, give up their celebrated "bankers' 

Manhattan's giant Citibank runs television commercials for its new 
automated banking system: "You are about to witness the dawn of a 
revolution in banking. This is Citibank's new twenty-four-hour service . . 

. where you can do most of your everyday banking anytime you want. 
So if Don Slater wants to check his balance at the crack of dawn, he 
can do it. And Brian Holland can transfer money from savings into 
checking anytime he wants to. ... You know and I know that life doesn't 
stop at three P.M. Monday to Friday — The Citi never sleeps." 

If, therefore, we look across the board at the way our soci- 


ety now treats time, we find a subtle but powerful shift away from the 
rhythms of the Second Wave and toward a new temporal structure in 
our lives. In fact, what is happening is a de-massification of time that 
precisely parallels the de-massif i -cation of other features of social life 
as the Third Wave sweeps in. 


We are only just beginning to feel the social consequences of this 
restructuring of time. For example, while the increasing 
individualization of time patterns certainly makes work less onerous, it 
also can intensify loneliness and social isolation. If friends, lovers, and 
family all work at different hours, and new services are not laid in place 
to help them coordinate their personal schedules, it becomes 
increasingly difficult for them to arrange face-to-face social contact. 

The old social centers — the neighborhood pub, the church clambake, 
the school prom — are losing their traditional significance. In their place, 
new Third Wave institutions must be invented to facilitate social life. 

One can, for example, easily imagine a new computerized service- 
call it "Pers-Sched" or "Friend-Sched" — that not only reminds you of 
your own appointments but stores the schedules of various friends and 
family members so that each person in the social network can, by 
pushing a button, find out where and when his or her friends and 
acquaintances will be, and can make arrangements accordingly. But 
far more significant social facilitators will be needed. 

The de-massification of time has other consequences, too. Thus we 
can already begin to see its effects in transportation. The Second 
Wave insistence on rigid, mass work schedules brought with it the 
characteristic rush-hour crush. The de-massification of time 
redistributes traffic flows in both space and time. 

In fact, one crude way to judge just how far the Third Wave has 
advanced in any community is to look at the traffic flows. If the peak 
hours are still heavily accented, and if all the traffic moves one way in 
the morning and reverses itself in the evening, Second Wave 
synchronization still prevails. If traffic flows all day long, as it does in an 
increasing number of cities, and moves in all directions, rather than 
merely back and forth, it is safe to assume that Third Wave industries 



have taken root, that service workers far outnumber manufacturing 
workers, that flextime has begun to spread, that part-time and night 
work are prevalent, and that all-night services — superettes, banks, gas 
stations, and restaurants — will not be far behind. 

The shift toward more flexible and personalized schedules also 
reduces energy costs and pollution by leveling out peak loads. Electric 
utilities in a dozen states are now using "time-of-day" pricing for 
industrial and residential customers to discourage energy use during 
traditional peak hours, while Connecticut's Department of 
Environmental Protection has urged companies to institute flextime as 
a means of complying with federal environmental requirements. 

These are among the most obvious implications of the time shift As the 
process continues to unfold in the years and decades ahead, we will 
see far more powerful and as yet unimag-ined consequences. The new 
time patterns will affect our daily rhythms in the home. They will affect 
our art. They will affect our biology. For when we touch on time we 
touch on all of human experience. 


These Third Wave rhythms spring from deep psychological, economic, 
and technological forces. At one level they arise from the changed 
nature of the population. People today — more affluent and educated 
than their parents and faced with more life choices — simply refuse to 
be massified. The more people differ in terms of the work they do or 
the products "they consume, the more they demand to be treated as 
individuals — and the more they resist socially imposed schedules. 

But at another level the new, more personalized Third Wave rhythms 
can be traced to a wide range of new technologies moving into our 
lives. Video cassettes and home video recording, for example, make it 
possible for televiewers to tape programs off the air and view them at 
times of their own choosing. Writes columnist Steven Brill, "Within the 
next two or three years television will probably stop dictating the 
schedules of even the worst tube addicts." The power of the great 
networks — the NBCs, the BBCs or NHKs — to synchronize viewing is 
coming to an end. 

The computer, too, is beginning to recast our schedules 

and even our conceptions of time. Indeed it is the computer which has 
made flextime possible in large organizations. At its simplest it 
facilitates the complex interweaving of thousands of personalized, 
flexible schedules. But it also alters our communications patterns in 
time, permitting us to access data and exchange it both 
"synchronously" (i.e., simultaneously) and "asynchronously." 

What that means is illustrated by the growing number of computer 
users who are today engaged in "computer conferencing." This permits 
a group to communicate with one another through terminals in their 

homes or offices. Some 660 scientists, futurists, planners, and 
educators today in several countries conduct lengthy discussions of 
energy, economics, decentralization, or space satellites with one 
another through what is known as the Electronic Information Exchange 
System. Teleprinters and video screens in their homes and offices 
provide a choice of either instant or delayed communication. Many 
time zones apart, each user can choose to send or retrieve data 
whenever it is most convenient. A person, can work at 3:00 A.M. if he 
or she feels like it. Alternatively, several can go on line at the same 
time if they so choose. 

But the computer's effect on time goes much deeper, influencing even 
the way we think about it. The computer introduces a new vocabulary 
(with terms like "real-time," for example) that clarifies, labels, and 
reconceptualizes temporal phenomena. It begins to replace the clock 
as the most important timekeeping or pace-setting device in society. 

Computer operations take place so rapidly that we routinely process 
data in what might be termed "subliminal time" — intervals far too short 
for the human senses to detect or for human neural response times to 
match. We now have computer-operated microprinters capable of 
turning out 10-000 to 20,000 lines per minute — more than 200 times 
faster than anyone can read them, and this is still the slowest part of 
computer systems. In twenty years computer scientists have gone from 
speaking in terms of milliseconds (thousandths of a second) to 
nanoseconds (billionths of a second) — a compression of tune almost 
beyond our powers to imagine. It is as though a person's entire 
working life of, say 80,000 paid hours — 2,000 hours per year for forty 
years — could be crunched into a mere 4.8 minutes. 

Beyond the computer we find other technologies or products that also 
move in the direction of de-massifying time. Mood-influencing drugs 
(not to speak of marijuana) alter the 



perception of time within us. As far more sophisticated mood drugs 
appear it is likely that, for good or for ill, even our interior sense of time, 
our experience of duration, will become further individualized and less 
universally shared. 

During Second Wave civilization machines were clumsily synchronized 
to one another, and people on the assembly line were then 
synchronized to the machines, with all the many social consequences 
that flowed from this fact. Today, machine synchronization has 
reached such exquisitely, high levels, and the pace of even the fastest 
human workers is so ridiculously slow by comparison, that full 
advantage of the technology can be derived not by coupling workers to 
the machine but only by decoupling them from it. 

Put differently, during Second Wave civilization, machine 
synchronization shackled the human to the machine's capabilities and 
imprisoned all of social life in a common frame. It did so in capitalist 
and socialist societies alike. Now, as machine synchronization grows 

more precise, humans, instead of being imprisoned, are progressively 

One of the psychological consequences of this is a change in the very 
meaning of punctuality in our lives. We are moving now from an 
across-the-board punctuality to selective or situational punctuality. 
Being on time — as our children perhaps dimly sense — no longer 
means what it used to mean. 

Punctuality, as we saw earlier, was not terribly important during First 
Wave civilization — basically because agricultural work was not highly 
interdependent. With the coming of the Second Wave one worker's 
lateness could immediately and dramatically disrupt the work of many 
others in factory or office. Hence the enormous cultural pressure to 
assure punctuality. - 

Today, because the Third Wave brings with it personalized instead of 
universal or massified schedules, the consequences of being late are 
less clear. To be late may inconvenience a friend or co-worker, but its 
disruptive effects on production, while still potentially severe in certain 
jobs, are less and less obvious. It is harder — especially for young 
people — to tell when punctuality is really important and when it is 
demanded out of mere force of habit, courtesy, or ritual. Punctuality 
remains vital in some situations but, as the computer spreads and 
people are permitted to plug into and out of round-the-clock cycles at 
will, the number of workers whose effectiveness depends on it 

The result is less pressure to be "on time" and the spread 


of more casual attitudes toward time among the young. Punctuality, 
like morality, becomes situational. 

In short, as the Third Wave moves in, challenging the old industrial 
way of doing things, it changes the relationship of the entire civilization 
to time. The old mechanical synchronization that destroyed so much of 
the spontaneity and joy of life and virtually symbolized the Second 
Wave is on its way out. The young people who reject the nine-to-five 
regime, who are indifferent to classical punctuality, may not understand 
why they behave as they do. But time itself has changed in the "real 
world," and along with it we have changed the ground rules that once 
governed us. 


The Third Wave does more than alter Second Wave patterns of 
synchronization. It attacks another basic feature of industrial life: 

The hidden code of Second Wave society encouraged a steamroller 
standardization of many things — from values, weights, distances, 
sizes, time, and currencies to products and prices. Second Wave 

businessmen worked hard to make every widget identical, and some 
still do. 

Today's sawiest businessmen, as we have seen, know how to 
customize (as opposed to standardize) at lowest cost, and find 
ingenious ways of applying the latest technology to the 
individualization of products and services. In employment the numbers 
of workers doing identical work grows smaller and smaller as the 
variety of occupations increases. Wages and fringe benefits begin to 
vary more from worker to worker. Workers themselves become more 
different from one another, and since they (and we) are also 
consumers, the differences immediately translate into the marketplace. 

The shift away from traditional mass production thus is accompanied 
by a parallel de-massification of marketing, merchandising, and of 
consumption. Consumers begin to make their choices not only 
because a product fulfills a specific material or psychological function 
but also because of the way it fits into the larger configuration of 
products and services they require. These highly individualized 
configurations are transient, as are the life-styles they help to define. 
Consumption, like production, becomes configurational- Post- 



standardized production brings with it post-standardized consumption. 

Even prices, standardized during the Second Wave period, begin to be 
less standard now, since custom products require custom pricing. The 
price tag for an automobile depends on the particular package of 
options selected; the price of a hi-fi set similarly depends on the units 
that are plugged together and on how much work the buyer wishes to 
do; the prices of aircraft, offshore oil rigs, ships, computers, and other 
high-technology items vary from one unit to the next. 

In politics we see similar trends. Our views are increasingly non- 
standard as consensus breaks down in nation after nation and 
thousands of "issue groups" spring up, each fighting for its own narrow, 
often temporary, set of goals. In turn, the culture itself is increasingly 

Thus we see the breakup of the mass mind as the new 
communications media described in Chapter Thirteen come into play. 
The de-massification of the mass media — the rise of mini-magazines, 
newsletters, and small scale, often Xeroxed, communications along 
with the coming of cable, cassette, and computer — shatters the 
standardized image of the world propagated by Second Wave 
communications technologies, and pumps a diversity of images, ideas, 
symbols, and values into society. Not only are we using customized 
products, we are using diverse symbols to customize our view of the 

Art News summarized the views of Dieter Honisch, director of the 
National Gallery in West Berlin: "What is admired hi Cologne may not 
be accepted in Munich and a Stuttgart success may not impress the 

Hamburg public. Ruled by sectional interests, the country is losing its 
sense of national culture." 

Nothing underlines this process of cultural de-standardization more 
crisply than a recent article in Christianity Today, a leading voice of 
conservative Protestantism in America. The editor writes, "Many 
Christians seem confused by the availability of so many different 
translations of the Bible. Older Christians did not face so many 
choices." Then conies the punch line. "Christianity Today recommends 
that no version should be the 'standard.'" Even within the narrow 
bounds of Biblical translation, as in religion generally, the notion of a 
single standard is passing. Our religious views, like our tastes, are 
becoming less uniform and standardized. 

The net effect is to carry us away from the Huxleyan or Orwellian 
society of faceless, de-individualized humanoids 


that a simple extension of Second Wave tendencies would suggest 
and, instead, toward a profusion of life-styles and more highly 
individualized personalities. We are watching the rise of a "post- 
standardized mind" and a "post-standardized public." 

This will bring its own social, psychological, and philosophical 
problems, some of which we are already feeling in the loneliness and 
social isolation around us, but these are dramatically different from the 
problems of mass conformity that exercised us during the industrial 

Because the Third Wave is not yet dominant even in the most 
technically advanced nations, we continue to feel the tug of powerful 
Second Wave currents. We are still completing some of the unfinished 
business of the Second Wave. For example, hard-cover book 
publishing in the United States, long a backward industry, is only now 
reaching the stage of mass-merchandising that paperback publishing 
and most other consumer industries attained more than a generation 
ago. Other Second Wave movements seem almost quixotic, like the 
one that urges us at this late stage to adopt the metric system in the 
United States to bring American measurements into conformity with 
those used in Europe. Still others derive from bureaucratic empire 
building, like the effort of Common Market technocrats in Brussels to 
"harmonise" everything from auto mirrors to college diplomas — 
"harmonisa-tion” being the current gobbledygook for industrial-style 

Finally, there are movements aimed at literally turning back the clock — 
like the back-to-basics movement in United States schools. 
Legitimately outraged by the disaster in mass education, it does not 
recognize that a de-massified society calls for new educational 
strategies, but seeks instead to restore and enforce Second Wave 
uniformity in the schools. 

Nevertheless, all these attempts to achieve uniformity are essentially 
the rearguard actions of a spent civilization. The thrust of Third Wave 
change is toward increased diversity, not toward the further 

standardization of life. And this is just as true of ideas, political 
convictions, sexual proclivities, educational methods, eating habits, 
religious views, ethnic attitudes, musical taste, fashions, and family 
forms as it is of automated production. 

An historic turning point has been reached, and standard- 



ization, another of the ruling principles of Second Wave civilization, is 
being replaced. 


Having seen how swiftly we are moving away from industrial-style 
synchronization and standardization, it should surprise no one that we 
are also rewriting other sections of the social code. 

We saw earlier that, while all societies need some measure of both 
centralization and decentralization, Second Wave civilization was 
heavily biased toward the former and against the latter. The Great 
Standardizes who helped build industrialism marched hand in hand 
with the Great Centralizers, from Hamilton and Lenin down to 

Today a sharp swing in the opposite direction is evident New political 
parties, new management techniques, and new philosophies are 
springing up that explicitly attack the centralist premises of the Second 
Wave. Decentralization has become a hot political issue from 
California to Kiev. 

In Sweden a coalition of largely decentralist small parties drove the 
centralist Social Democrats from power after 44 years in office. 
Struggles over decentralization and regionalism have shaken France in 
recent years, while across the Channel and to the north the Scottish 
Nationalists now include a wing committed to "radical economic 
decentralization." Similar political movements can be identified 
elsewhere in Western Europe, while in New Zealand a still-small 
Values Party has sprouted, demanding "an expansion of the functions 
and autonomy of local and regional government . . . with a consequent 
reduction in the functions and size of central government." 

In the United States, too, decentralism has picked up support, and 
supplies at least some of the fuel for the tax revolt that is, for good or 
for ill, surging across the country. On the municipal level, too, 
decentralism gains force, with local politicos demanding "neighborhood 
power." Activist, neighborhood-based groups are proliferating, from 
ROBBED (Residents Organized for Better and Beautiful Environmental 
Development) in San Antonio, to CBBB (Citizens to Bring Broadway 
Back) in Cleveland and the People's Firehouse in Brooklyn. Many see 
the central government in Washington as the source of local ills rather 
than the potential cure. 


According to Monsignor Geno Baroni, himself a former neighborhood 
and civil rights activist and now the Assistant Secretary for 
Neighborhoods in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban 
Development, such small, decentralized groups reflect the breakdown 
of machine politics and the inability of big government to cope with the 
wide diversity of local conditions and people. Says The New York 
Times, neighborhood activists are winning "victories in Washington and 
across the country." 

The decentralist philosophy is being spread, moreover, in schools of 
architecture and planning, from Berkeley to Yale in the United States to 
the Architectural Association in London, where students are, among 
other things, exploring new technologies for environmental control, 
solar heating, or urban agriculture with the aim of making communities 
partially self-sufficient in the future. The impact of these young 
planners and architects will be increasingly felt in the years to come as 
they move into responsible positions. 

More important, however, the term "decentralization" has also become 
a buzzword in management, and large companies are racing to break 
their departments down into smaller, more autonomous "profit 
centers." A typical case was the reorganization of Esmark, Inc., a huge 
company with operations in the food, chemical, oil, and insurance 

"In the past," declared Esmark's chairman, Robert Reneker, "we had 
an unwieldly business. . . . The only way we could develop coordinated 
effort was to divide it into bite-size bits." The result: an Esmark cut into 
1,000 different "profit centers," each one largely responsible for its own 

"The net effect," said Business Week, "is to lift the routine decision- 
making from Reneker's shoulders. Decentralization is evident 
everywhere but in Esmark's financial controls." 

What is important is not Esmark — which has probably reorganized 
itself more than once since — but the general tendency it illustrates. 
Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of companies are also in the process of 
continual reorganization, decentralizing, sometimes overshooting and 
swinging back, but gradually, over time, reducing centralized control 
over their day-to-day operations. 

At an even deeper level, large organizations are changing the authority 
patterns that underpinned centralism. The typical Second Wave firm or 
government agency was organized around the principle of "one man, 
one boss." While an em- 



ployee or an executive might have many subordinates, he or she 
would never report to more than a single superior. This principle meant 
that the channels of command all went to the center. 

Today it is fascinating to watch that system crack under its own weight 
in the advanced industries, in the services, the professions, and many 
government agencies. The fact is, growing multitudes of us today have 
more than a single boss. 

In Future Shock I pointed out that big organizations were increasingly 
honeycombed by temporary units like task forces, interdepartmental 
committees, and project teams. I termed this phenomenon "ad- 
hocracy." Since then, many large companies have moved to 
incorporate these transient units into a radically new formal structure 
called "matrix organization." Instead of centralized control, matrix 
organization employs what is known as a "multiple command system." 

Under this arrangement, each employee is attached to a department 
and reports to a superior in customary fashion. But he or she is also 
assigned to one or more teams for jobs that can't be done by a single 
department. Thus a typical project team may have people from 
manufacturing, from research, sales, engineering, finance, and from 
other departments as well. The members of this team all report to the 
project leader as well as to a "regular" boss. 

The result is that vast numbers of people today report to one boss for 
purely administrative purposes and another (or a succession of others) 
for practical get-the-work-done purposes. This system lets employees 
give attention to more than one task at a time. It speeds up the flow of 
information and avoids their looking at problems through the narrow slit 
of a single department. It helps the organization respond to different, 
quickly changing circumstances. But it also actively subverts 
centralized control. 

Spreading from such early users as General Electric in the United 
States and Skandia Insurance in Sweden, the matrix-style organization 
is now found in everything from hospitals and accounting firms to the 
U.S. Congress (where all sorts of new, semiformal "clearinghouses" 
and "caucuses" are springing up across committee lines). Matrix, in the 
words of Professors S. M. Davis of Boston University and P. R. 
Lawrence of Harvard, "is not just another minor management 
technique or a passing fad ... it represents a sharp break ... matrix 
represents a new species of business organization." 



And this new species is inherently less centralized than the old one- 
boss system that characterized the Second Wave era. 

Most important, we are also radically decentralizing the economy as a 
whole. Witness the rising power of small regional banks in the United 
States as against that of the handful of traditional "money market" 
giants. (As industry becomes more geographically dispersed, firms that 
previously had to rely on "money center" banks have increasingly 
turned to the regionals. Says Kenneth L. Roberts, president of First 
American, a Nashville bank, "The future of U.S. banking no longer lies 
with the money market banks.") And as with the banking system, so 
too with the economy itself. 

The Second Wave gave rise to the first truly national markets and the 
very concept of a national economy. Along with these came the 
development of national tools for economic management — central 
planning in the socialist nations, central banks and national monetary 
and fiscal policies in the capitalist sector. Today 'both these sets of 
tools are failing — to the mystification of the Second Wave economists 
and politicians who try to manage the system. 

Although the fact is only dimly appreciated as yet, national economies 
are swiftly breaking down into regional and sectoral parts — subnational 
economies with distinctive and differing problems of their own. 

Regions, whether the Sun Belt in the United States, the Mezzogiorno 
in Italy, or Kansai in Japan, instead of growing more alike as they did 
during the industrial era, are beginning to diverge from one another in 
terms of energy requirements, resources, occupational mix, 
educational levels, culture, and other key factors. Moreover, many of 
these subnational economies have now reached the scale of national 
economies only a generation ago. 

Failure to recognize this accounts in good measure for the bankruptcy 
of government efforts to stabilize the economy. Every attempt to offset 
inflation or unemployment through nationwide tax rebates or hikes, or 
through monetary or credit manipulation, or through other uniform, 
undifferenti-ated policies, merely aggravates the disease. 

Those who attempt to manage Third Wave economies with such 
centralized Second Wave tools are like a doctor who arrives at a 
hospital one morning and blindly prescribes the same shot of Adrenalin 
for all patients — regardless of whether they have a broken leg, a 
ruptured spleen, a brain tumor, or an ingrown toenail. Only 
disaggregated, increas- 



ingly decentralized economic management can work in the new 
economy, for it, too, is becoming progressively decentralized at the 
very moment it seems most global and uniform. 

All these anti-centralist tendencies — in politics, in corporate or 
government organization, and in the economy itself (reinforced by 
parallel developments hi the media, in the distribution of computer 
power, in energy systems, and in many other fields) — are creating a 
wholly new society and making yesterday's rules obsolete. 


Many other sections of the Second Wave social code are also being 
drastically rewritten as the Third Wave arrives. Thus Second Wave 
civilization's obsessive emphasis on maximization is also under sharp 
attack. Never before have advocates of Bigger Is Better been so 
assailed by advocates of Small Is Beautiful. It was only in the 1970's 
that a book with that title could have become an influential, worldwide 
best seller. 

Everywhere we are seeing a dawning recognition that there are limits 
to the much-vaunted economies of scale and that many organizations 
have exceeded those limits. Corporations are now actively searching 
for ways to reduce the size of their work units. New technologies and 
the shift to services both sharply reduce the scale of operation. The 
traditional Second Wave factory or office, with thousands of people 
under a single roof, will be a rarity in the high-technology nations. 

In Australia, when I asked the president of an auto company to 
describe the auto plant of the future, he spoke with, utter conviction, 
saying, "I would never, ever again build a plant like this one with seven 
thousand workers under the same roof. I would break it into small 
units — three hundred or four hundred in each. The new technologies 
now make this possible." I have since heard similar sentiments from 
the presidents or chairmen of companies producing food and many 
other products. 

Today, we are beginning to realize that neither big nor small is 
beautiful, but that appropriate scale, and the intelligent meshing of both 
big and small, is most beautiful of all. (This was something that E. F. 
Schumacher, author of Small Is Beautiful, knew better than some of his 
more avid follow- 



ers. He once told friends that, had he lived in a world of small 
organizations, he would have written a book called Big Is Beautiful.) 

We are also beginning to experiment with new forms of organization 
that combine the advantages of both. For example, the rapid spread of 
franchising in the United States, Britain, Holland, and other countries is 
often a response to capital shortage or tax quirks and can be criticized 
on various grounds. But it represents a method for rapidly creating 
small units and linking them together in larger systems, with varying 
degrees of centralization or decentralization. It is an attempt to mesh 
large- and small-scale organizations. 

Second Wave maximization is on its way out. Appropriate scale is in. 

Society is also taking a hard look at Second Wave sped zation and 
professionalism. The Second Wave code book p experts on a towering 
pedestal. One of its basic rules "Specialize to succeed." Today, in 
every field, including politics, we see a basic change in attitude toward 
the expert. Once regarded as the trustworthy source of neutral 
intelligence, specialists have been dethroned from public approval. 

They are increasingly criticized for pursuing their own self-interest and 
for being incapable of anything but tunnel vision. We see more and 
more efforts to restrain the power of the expert by adding laymen to 
decision-making bodies — in hospitals, for example, and many other 

Parents demand the right to influence school decisions, no longer 
content to leave them to professional educators. After, studying citizen 

political participation a few years ago, a task force hi the state of 
Washington concluded, in a statement that summed up the new 
attitude, "You don't have to be an expert to know what you want!" 

Second Wave civilization encouraged yet another principle: 
concentration. It concentrated money, energy, resources, and; people. 
It poured vast populations into urban concentrationsJ Today this 
process, too, has begun to turn around. We see uw creasing 
geographical dispersal instead. At the level of enH ergy, we are 
moving from a reliance on concentrated deposit! of fossil fuels to a 
variety of more widely dispersed forms of energy and we are seeing 
numerous experiments aimed at "de-concentrating" the populations of 
schools, hospitals, aa mental institutions. 

In short, one could move systematically through the entire code book 
of Second Wave civilization — from standardization 


to synchronization right on down to centralization, maximization, 
specialization, and concentration — and show, item by item, how the old 
ground rules that governed our daily lives and our social decision- 
making are in the process of being revolutionized as Third Wave 
civilization sweeps in. 


Earlier we saw that when all the Second Wave principles were put to 
work in a single organization the result was a classical industrial 
bureaucracy: a giant, hierarchical, permanent, top-down, mechanistic 
organization, well designed for making repetitive products or repetitive 
decisions in a comparatively stable industrial environment 

Now, however, as we shift to the new principles and begin to apply 
them together, we are necessarily led to wholly new kinds of 
organizations for the future. These Third Wave organizations have 
flatter hierarchies. They are less top-heavy. They consist of small 
components linked together in temporary configurations. Each of these 
components has its own relationships with the outside world, its own 
foreign policy, so to speak, which it maintains without having to go 
through the center. These organizations operate more and more 
around the clock. 

But they are different from bureaucracies in another fundamental 
respect. They are what might be called "dual" or "poly" organizations, 
capable of assuming two or more distinct structural shapes as 
conditions warrant — rather like some plastic of the future that will 
change shape when heat or cold is applied but spring back into a basic 
form when the temperature is in its normal range. 

One might imagine an army that is democratic and participatory in 
peace time but highly centralized and authoritarian during war, having 
been organized, in the first place, to be capable of both. We might use 
the analogy of a football team whose members are not merely capable 
of rearranging them-nelves in T formation and numerous other 
arrangements for different plays but who, at the sound of a whistle, are 

equally capable of reassembling themselves as a soccer, baseball, or 
basketball squad, depending upon the game being played. I Such 
organizational players need to be trained for instant nduptation, and 
they must feel comfortable in a wider repertoire of available 
organizational structures and roles. 



We need managers who can operate as capably in an open-door, free- 
flow style as in a hierarchical mode, who can work in an organization 
structured like an Egyptian pyramid ' as well as in one that looks like a 
Calder mobile, with a few thin managerial strands holding a complex 
set of nearly autonomous modules that move in response to the 
gentlest breeze. 

We do not yet have a vocabulary for describing these organizations of 
the future. Terms like matrix or ad hoc are inadequate. Various 
theorists have suggested different words. Advertising man Lester 
Wunderman has said, "Ensemble groups, acting as intellectual 
commandos, will . . . begin to replace the hierarchial structure." Tony 
Judge, one of our most brilliant organization theorists, has written 
extensively about the "network" character of these emerging 
organizations of the future, pointing out, among other things, that "the 
network is not 'coordinated* by anybody; the participating 'bodies 
coordinate themselves so that one may speak of 'auto- ; coordination.'" 
Elsewhere he has described them in terms Buckminster Fuller's 
"tensegrity" principles. 

But whatever terms we use, something revolutionary happening. We 
are participating not merely in the birth o new organizational forms but 
in the birth of a new civiliz tion. A new code book is taking form — a set 
of Third Wave principles, fresh ground-rules for social survival. 

It is hardly any wonder that parents — still mainly tied to the industrial- 
era code book — find themselves hi conflict with children who, aware of 
the growing irrelevance of the oldj rules, are uncertain, if not blindly 
ignorant, of the new ones.] They and we alike are caught between a 
dying Second Wave* order and the Third Wave civilization of 


Giant historical shifts are sometimes symbolized by minute changes in 
everyday behavior. One such change — its significance all but 
overlooked — occurred early in the 1970's when a new product began 
invading the pharmacies of France, England, Holland, and other 
European countries. The new product was a do-it-yourself pregnancy 
test kit. Within a few years an estimated 15 to 20 million such kits had 
been sold to European women. Soon ads in American newspapers 
were clamoring: "Pregnant? The sooner you know, the better." When 
Warner-Lambert, an American firm, introduced the kit under its brand 
name it found the response "overwhelmingly good." By 1980 millions of 

women on both sides of the Atlantic were routinely performing for 
themselves a task previously carried out for them by doctors and 

They were not the only ones sidestepping the physician. According to 
Medical World News, "Self-care — the idea that people can and should 
be more medically self-reliant — is a fast rolling new bandwagon. . . . 
Across the land, ordinary people are learning to handle stethoscopes 
and blood pressure cuffs, administer breast self-examinations and Pap 
smears, even carry out elementary surgical procedures." 

Today mothers are taking throat cultures. Schools offer courses on 
everything from foot care to "instant pediatrics." And people are 
checking their own blood pressure in coin-operated machines located 
in more than 1 ,300 shopping centers, airports, and department stores 
in the United States. 

As recently as 1972 few medical instruments were sold to non- 
physicians. Today a growing share of the instrument 




market is destined for the home. Sales of otoscopes, ear-cleaning 
devices, nose and throat irrigators, and specialized convalescent 
products are all booming, as individuals take on more responsibility for 
their own health, reduce the number of visits to the doctor, and cut 
short their hospital stays. 

On the surface all this might seem no more than a fad. Yet this rush to 
treat one's own problems (instead of paying someone else to do so) 
reflects a substantial change hi our values, in our definition of illness, 
and in our perception of body and self. Even this explanation, however, 
diverts attention from a still larger meaning. To appreciate the truly 
historic significance of this phenomenon, we need to glance briefly 


During the First Wave most people consumed what they themselves 
produced. They were neither producers nor consumers in the usual 
sense. They were instead what might be called "prosumers." 

It was the industrial revolution, driving a wedge into society, that 
separated these two functions, thereby giving birth to what we now call 
producers and consumers. This split led to the rapid spread of the 
market or exchange network — that maze of channels through which 
goods or services, produced by you, reach me and vice versa. 

Earlier I argued that, with the Second Wave, we went from an 
agricultural society based on "production for use" — an economy of 
prosumers, as it were — to an industrial society based on "production 
for exchange." The actual situation was more complicated, however. 

For just as a small amount of production for exchange — i.e., for the 
market — existed during the First Wave, there continued to be a small 
amount of production for self-use during the Second. 

A more revealing way of thinking about the economy, therefore, is to 
think of it as having two sectors. Sector A comprises all that unpaid 
work done directly by people for themselves, their families, or their 
communities. Sector B comprises all the production of goods or 
services for sale or swap through the exchange network or market. 

Seen this way, we can now say that during the First Wave, Sector A — 
based on production for use — was enormous, while Sector B was 
minimal. During the Second Wave the re- 



verse was true. In fact, the production of goods and services for the 
market mushroomed to such an extent that Second Wave economists 
virtually forgot the existence of Sector A. The very word "economy" 
was defined to exclude all forms of work or production not intended for 
the market, and the prosumer became invisible. 

This meant, for example, that all the unpaid work done by women in 
the home, all the cleaning, scrubbing, child-rearing, the community 
organizing, was contemptuously dismissed as "non-economic," even 
though Sector B — the visible economy — could not have existed 
without the goods and services produced in Sector A — the invisible 
economy. If no one were at home minding the children there would be 
no next generation of paid workers for Sector B, and the system would 
fall of its own weight 

Can anyone imagine a functional economy, let alone a highly 
productive one, without workers who, as children, have been toilet 
trained, taught to speak, and socialized into the culture? What would 
happen to the productivity of Sector B if the workers flowing into it 
lacked even these minimal skills? Though ignored by Second Wave 
economists, the fact is that the productivity of each sector depends 
heavily on the other. 

Today, as Second Wave societies suffer their terminal crisis, politicians 
and experts still bandy about economic statistics based entirely on 
Sector B transactions. They worry about declining "growth" and 
"productivity." Yet so long as they continue to think in Second Wave 
categories, so long as they ignore Sector A and regard it as outside the 
economy — and so long as the prosumer remains invisible — they will 
never be able to manage our economic affairs. 

For if we look closely we find the beginnings of a fundamental shift in 
the relationship of these two sectors or forms of production to one 
another. We see a progressive blurring of the line that separates 
producer from consumer. We see the rising significance of the 
prosumer. And beyond that, we see an awesome change looming that 
will transform even the role of the market itself in our lives and in the 
world system. 

All this takes us back to the millions of people who are beginning to 
perform for themselves services hitherto performed for them by 
doctors. For what these people are really doing is shifting some 
production from Sector B to Sector A, from 



the visible economy that the economists monitor to the phantom 
economy they have forgotten. 

They are "presuming." And they are not alone. 


In Britain hi 1970, a Manchester housewife named Kather-ine Fisher, 
after suffering for years from a desperate fear of leaving her own 
home, founded an organization for others with similar phobias. Today 
that organization, The Phobics Society, has many branches and is one 
of thousands of new groups cropping up in many of the high- 
technology nations to help people deal directly with their own 
problems — psychological, medical, social, or sexual. 

In Detroit, some 50 "bereavement groups" have sprung up to aid 
people suffering from grief after the loss of a relative or friend. In 
Australia an organization called GROW brings together former mental 
patients and "nervous persons." GROW now has chapters in Hawaii, 
New Zealand, and Ireland. In 22 states an organization called Parents 
of Gays and Lesbians is in formation to help those with homosexual 
children. In Britain, Depressives Associated has some 60 chapters. 
From Addicts Anonymous and the Black Lung Association to Parents 
Without Partners and Widow-to-Widow, new groups are forming 

Of course, there is nothing new about people in trouble getting 
together to talk out their problems and learn from one another. 
Nonetheless, historians can find little precedent for the wildfire speed 
with which the self-help movement is spreading today. 

Frank Riessman and Alan Gartner, co-directors of the New Human 
Services Institute, estimate mat hi the United States alone there are 
now over 500,000 such groupings — about one for every 435 in the 
population — with new ones forming daily. Many are short-lived, but for 
each, one that disappears several seem to take its place. 

These organizations vary widely. Some share the new suspicion of 
specialists and attempt to work without them. They rely entirely on 
what might be termed "cross-counseling" — people swapping advice 
based on then* own life experience, as distinct from receiving 
traditional counseling from the professionals. Some see themselves as 
providing a support system for people hi trouble. Others play a political 



lobbying for changes in legislation or tax regulations. Still others have a 
quasi-religious character. Some are intentional communities whose 
members not only meet but actually live together. 

Such groups are now forming regional, even transnational linkages. To 
the extent that professional psychologists, social workers, or doctors 
are involved at all, they increasingly undergo a role change, shifting 
from the role of impersonal expert who is assumed to know best to that 
of listener, teacher, ;md guide who works with the patient or client. 
Existing voluntary or nonprofit groups — originally organized for the 
purpose of helping others — are similarly struggling to see how they fit 
in with a movement based on the principle of helping oneself. 

The self-help movement is thus restructuring the socio-sphere. 
Smokers, stutterers, suicide-prone people, gamblers, victims of throat 
disease, parents of twins, overeaters, and other such groupings now 
form a dense network of organizations that mesh with the emerging 
Third Wave family and corporate structures. 

But whatever their significance for social organization, they represent a 
basic shift from passive consumer to active pro-sumer, and they thus 
hold economic meaning as well. Though ultimately dependent on the 
market and still intertwined with it, they are transferring activity from 
Sector B of the economy to Sector A, from the exchange sector to the 
pro-sumption sector. Nor is this burgeoning movement the only such 
force: Some of the richest and largest corporations in the world are 
also — for their own technological and economic reasons — accelerating 
the rise of the prosumer. 


In 1956 the American Telephone & Telegraph Company, creaking 
under the burden of exploding communications demand, began 
introducing new electronic technology that made it possible for callers 
to direct-dial their long-distance calls. Today it is even possible to 
direct-dial many overseas calls. By punching in the appropriate 
numbers, the consumer took on a task previously done for him by the 

In 1973-74 the oil squeeze triggered by the Arab embargo sent 
gasoline prices soaring. Giant oil companies reaped bonanza profits, 
but local filling-station operators had to fight 



a desperate battle for economic survival. To cut costs many introduced 
self-service fuel pumps. At first these were an oddity. Newspapers 
wrote funny feature stories about the motorist who tried to put the fuel 
hose into the car radiator. Soon, however, the sight of consumers 
pumping their own gas became a commonplace. 

Only 8 percent of U.S. gas stations were on a self-service basis in 
1974. By 1977 the number reached nearly 50 percent. In West 
Germany, of 33,500 service stations some 15 percent had shifted to 
self-service by 1976, and this 15 percent accounted for 35 percent of 
all the gasoline sold. Industry experts say that it will soon be 70 
percent of the total. Once more the consumer is replacing a producer 
and becoming a prosumer. 

The same period saw the introduction of electronic banking, which not 
only began to break down the pattern of "banker's hours" but also 
increasingly eliminated the teller, leaving the customer to perform 
operations previously done by the bank staff. 

Getting the customer to do part of the job — known to economists as 
"externalizing labor cost" — is scarcely new. That's what self-service 
supermarkets are all about. The smiling clerk who knew the stock and 
went and got it for you was replaced by the push-it-yourself shopping 
cart. While some customers lamented the good old days of personal 
service, many liked the new system. They could do their own 
searching and they wound up paying a few cents less. In effect, they 
were paying themselves to do the work the clerk had previously done. 

Today this same form of externalization is occurring in many other 
fields. The rise of discount stores, for example, represents a partial 
step in the same direction. Clerks are far and few between; the 
customer pays a bit less but works a bit harder. Even shoe stores, in 
which a supposedly skilled clerk was long regarded as a necessity, are 
moving to self-service, shifting work to the consumer. 

The same principle can be found elsewhere, too. As Caroline Bird has 
written in her perceptive book, The Crowding Syndrome, "More things 
come knocked down for supposedly easy assembly at home . . . and 
during the Christmas season shoppers in some of the proudest old 
New York stores have to make out sales slips for clerks unable or 
unwilling to write." 

In January 1978 a thirty-year-old government worker in 



Washington, D.C., heard strange noises emanating from his 
refrigerator. The customary thing to do in the past was to call in a 
mechanic and pay him to fix it. Given the high cost and (he difficulty of 
getting a repairman at a convenient hour, Barry Nussbaum read the 
instructions that came with his refrigerator. On it he discovered an 800 
telephone number that he could use to call the manufacturer — 
Whirlpool Corporation of Benton Harbor, Michigan — free of charge. 

This was the "Cool-Line" set up by Whirlpool to help customers with 
service problems. Nussbaum called. The man at the other end then 
"talked him through" a repair, explaining to Nussbaum exactly which 
bolts to remove, which sounds to listen for and — later — what part 
would be needed. "That guy," says Nussbaum, "was super-helpful. He 

not only knew what I needed to do, he was a great confidence builder." 
The refrigerator was fixed in no time. 

Whirlpool has a bank of nine full-time and several part-time advisers, 
some of them former service field men, who wear headsets and take 
such calls. A screen in front of them Instantly displays for them a 
diagram of whatever product is Involved (Whirlpool makes freezers, 
dishwashers, air-conditioners, and other appliances in addition to 
refrigerators) and permits them to guide the customer. In 1978 alone 
Whirlpool lumdled 150,000 such calls. 

The Cool-Line is a rudimentary model for a future system of 
maintenance that permits the homeowner to do much of what a paid 
outside mechanic or specialist once did. Made possible by advances 
that have driven down the cost of longdistance telephoning, it suggests 
future systems that might ac-l Inally display step-by-step fix-it-yourself 
instructions on the home television screen as the adviser speaks. The 
spread of mich systems would reserve the repair mechanic only for 
major tasks, or turn the mechanic (like the doctor or social worker) into 
a teacher, guide, and guru for prosumers. 

What we see is a pattern that cuts across many indus-iiirs — increasing 
externalization, increasing involvement of I ili«v consumer in tasks 
once done for her or him by others — nnd once again, therefore, a 
transfer of activity from Sector It of the economy to Sector A, from the 
exchange sector to iln' prosumption sector. 

All of this pales by comparison with what we see when we 

I Inok at the dramatic changes that have hit other parts of the 

»!n H-yourself industry. Do-it-yourselfers have always put- 



tered away at fixing cracked windowpanes, broken light fixtures, or 
chipped flagstones. Nothing new about that. What's changed — and 
changed astonishingly — is the relationship between the do-it-yourselfer 
and the professional builder, carpenter, electrician, plumber, or what 
have you. 

As recently as ten years ago in the United States only 3( percent of all 
electric power tools were sold to do-it-yoursel ers; 70 percent went to 
carpenters or other professioi craftsmen. In a short ten years those 
figures have been versed: Today only 30 percent are sold to 
professionals; 70 percent are bought by consumers who, more and 
mot are doing-it-themselves. 

An even more significant milestone, according to Frost Sullivan, a 
leading industrial research firm, was passed in United States between 
1974 and 1976, when "for the time, more than half of all building 
materials . . . were pi chased directly by homeowners rather than by 
contractors dc ing work for them." And this did not include an 

additional] $350,000,000 spent by the home craftsman for jobs costing] 
under $25. 

While overall expenditures for building materials rose 31 percent 
during the first half of the seventies, those bought b} do-it-yourself 
homeowners rose over 65 percent — more th? twice as fast. The 
change, declares the F & S report, is "bot dramatic and continuing." 

Another Frost & Sullivan study speaks of the "skyrocketii growth of 
such expenditures and underscores the value shil toward self- 
sufficiency. "Where working with one's hands looked down upon (at 
least by the middle class) it is now sign of pride. People doing their 
own work are proud of it." 

Schools, universities, and publishers are busy offering at avalanche of 
how-to courses and books. Says U.S. News & World Report: "Both rich 
and poor are caught up hi boom. In Cleveland, home-repair instruction 
is offered public-housing projects. In California, owner-installed saum 
spas and decks are popular." 

In Europe, too, the so-called "DIY revolution" is way — with a few 
variations based on national temperamer (German and Dutch do-it- 
yourselfers tend to treat then* prc ects very soberly, set high 
standards, and equip themselve carefully. Italians, by contrast, are just 
beginning to discove the DIY movement, many older husbands 
insisting that it degrading to do the work themselves.) 

Once more the reasons are multiple. Inflation. The dii 


mlty of getting a carpenter or plumher. Shoddy work. Expanded 
leisure. All these play a part. A more potent reason, however, is what 
might be called the Law of Relative Inefficiency. This holds that the 
more we automate the production (if goods and lower their per-unit 
cost, the more we increase (lie relative cost of handcrafts and 
nonautomated services. (If a plumber gets $20 for a one-hour house 
call and $20 will buy one hand calculator, his price, in effect, goes up 
substantially when the same $20 will buy several hand calculators. 
Relative to the cost of other goods, his price has risen several limes 

For such reasons, we must expect the price of many services to 
continue their skyrocketing climb in the years ahead. And as these 
prices soar, we can expect people to do more nnd more for 
themselves. In short, even without inflation, the Law of Relative 
Inefficiency would make it increasingly "profitable" for people to 
produce for their own consumption, thus transferring further activity 
from Sector B to Sector A of the economy, from exchange production 
to presumption. 


To glimpse the long-range future of this development, we need to look 
not only at services, but at goods. And when we do we find that here, 

too, the consumer is increasingly being drawn into the production 

Thus eager manufacturers today recruit — even pay — customers to help 
design products. This is not merely true in industries that sell direct to 
the public — food, soap, toiletries, et cetera — but even more so in the 
advanced industries like elec -I ronics where de-massification is most 

"We've been most successful when we have worked closely with one 
or two customers," says the manager of Texas Instruments' planning 
system. "To go off and study an application by ourselves and then try 
to come up with a standard product in that market has not been 

Indeed, Cyril H. Brown of Analog Devices, Inc. divides all products into 
two kinds: "inside-out" products and "outside-in” products. The latter 
are defined not by the manufacturer hut by the potential customer, and 
these outsider products, uccording to Brown, are ideal. The more we 
shift toward advanced manufacture, and the more we de-massify and 



mize production, the stronger the customer's involvement in the 
production process must necessarily grow. 

Today members of Computer-aided Manufacturing International (CAM- 
I) are hard at work classifying and coding parts and processes to 
permit the full automation of production. The prospect is still no more 
than a glint in the eye of such experts as Professor Inyong Ham of 
Penn State's Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Systems 
Engineer ing, but ultimately a customer will be able to feed his or her 
specifications into a manufacturer's computer directly. 

The computer will not only design the product the cus tomer wants, 
Professor Ham explains, but select the manufactoring processes to be 
used. It will assign the machines. It will sequence the necessary steps 
from, say, milling or grind ing right down to painting. It will write the 
necessary programs for the subcomputers or numerical control devices 
that will run the machines. And it may even feed in an "adaptive 
control" that will optimize these various processes for both economic 
and environmental purposes. 

In the end, the consumer, not merely providing the specs but punching 
the button that sets this entire process in action will become as much a 
part of the production process as the denim-clad assembly-line worker 
was in the world now dying. 

While such a customer-activated manufacturing system is still some 
distance off, at least some of the hardware already exists. Thus, at 
least in theory, the computer-run laser gun used in the garment 
industry and described in Chapter Fif-teen could, if linked by telephone 
to a personal computer permit a customer to feed in his or her various 

dimensions select appropriate cloth, and then actually activate the 
laser cutter — without leaving his or her own home. 

Robert H. Anderson, head of the Information Services Department at 
the RAND Corporation and a leading expert on computerized 
manufacture, explains it this way: "The most creative thing a person 
will do 20 years from now is to be a very creative consumer . . . 

Namely, you'll be sitting there doing things like designing a suit of 
clothes for yourself or making modifications to a standard design, so 
the computers can cut one for you by laser and sew it together for you 
by numerically controlled machine.. .. 

"You really could, because of the computers, take your specs and turn 
them into a car. They will, of course, have programmed within them all 
the federal safety regulations 



and all the physics of the situation so they won't let you get too far out 
of bounds." 

And if to this we now add the possibility that many people may soon be 
working at home anyway in the electronic cot-tages of tomorrow, we 
begin to imagine a significant change in the "tools" available to the 
consumer. Many of the same electronic devices we will use in the 
home to do work for pay will also make it possible to produce goods or 
services for our own use. In this system the prosumer, who dominated 
in First Wave societies, is brought back into the center of economic 
action — but on a Third Wave, high-technology basis. 

In short, whether we look at self-help movements, do-it-yourself trends, 
or new production technologies, we find the same shift toward a much 
closer involvement of the consumer in production. In such a world, 
conventional distinctions between producer and consumer vanish. The 
"outsider" becomes an "insider," and even more production is shifted 
from Sector B of the economy to Sector A where the pro-sumer reigns. 

As this occurs we begin — glacially at first but then, perhaps, with 
accelerating speed — to alter that most fundamental of our institutions: 
the market. 


The willing seduction of the consumer into production has staggering 
implications. To understand why, it helps to remember that the market 
is premised on precisely the split between producer and consumer that 
is now being blurred. An elaborate market was not necessary when 
most people consumed what they themselves produced. It only 
became necessary when the task of consumption was separated from 
that of production. 

Conventional writers define the market narrowly as a capi-talist, 
money -based phenomenon. Yet the market is merely mother word for 
an exchange network, and there have been (and still are) many 

different kinds of exchange networks. In the West the most familiar to 
us is the profit-based, capitalist market. But there are also socialist 
markets — exchange networks through which the goods or services 
produced by Ivan Ivanovich in Smolensk are traded for goods or 
services turned out by Johann Schmidt in East Berlin. There are 


markets based on money — but also markets based on barter. The 
market is neither capitalist nor socialist. It is a direct, inescapable 
consequence of the divorce of producer from consumer. Wherever this 
divorce occurs the market arises. And wherever the gap between 
consumer and producer narrows, the entire function, role, and power of 
the market is brought into question. 

The rise of presuming today, therefore, begins to change the role of 
the market in our lives. 

It is too early to know where this subtle but significant thrust is taking 
us. Certainly the market is not going to go away. We are not going to 
go back to premarket economies. What I have called Sector B — the 
exchange sector — is not going to shrivel up and vanish. We will, for a 
long time to come, continue to be heavily dependent upon the market. 

Nevertheless, the rise of presuming points strongly toward a 
fundamental change hi the relationships between Sector A and Sector 
B — a set of relationships that Second Wave economists have until now 
virtually ignored. 

For presuming involves the "de-marketization" of at least certain 
activities and therefore a sharply altered role for the market in society. 

It suggests an economy of the future unlike any we have known — an 
economy that is no longer lopsidedly weighted in favor of either Sector 
A or Sector B. It points to the emergence of an economy that will 
resemble neither First Wave nor Second Wave economies, but will, in- 
stead, fuse the characteristics of both into a new historic syn thesis. 

The rise of the prosumer, powered by the soaring cost of many paid 
services, by the breakdown of Second Wave ser-vice bureaucracies, 
by the availability of Third Wave technol-ogies, by the problems of 
structural unemployment, and by many other converging factors, leads 
to new work-styles and life arrangements. If we permit ourselves to 
speculate, bear-1 ing in mind some of the shifts described earlier — such 
as the move toward de-synchronization and part-time paid work, the 
possible emergence of the electronic cottage, or the changed structure 
of family life — we can begin to discern some of these life-style 

Thus we are moving toward a future economy in which very large 
numbers never hold full-time paid jobs, or in which "full-time" is 
redefined, as it has been in recent years, to mean a shorter and 
shorter workweek or work year. (In 


Sweden, where a recent law guaranteed all workers five weeks of paid 
vacation regardless of age or length of service, a normal work year 
was considered to be 1840 hours. In fact, absenteeism has run so high 
that a more realistic average per worker is 1600 hours per year.) 

Large numbers of workers already do paid work for what averages out 
to only three or four days a week, or they take six months or a year off 
to pursue educational or recreational goals. This pattern may well grow 
stronger as two-paycheck households multiply. More people in the paid 
labor market — higher "labor participation rates," as the economists put 
it — may very well go with reduced hours per worker. 

This casts the whole question of leisure into a new light. Once we 
recognize that much of our so-called leisure time is, in fact, spent 
producing goods and services for our own use— presuming — then the 
old distinction between work and leisure falls apart. The question is not 
work versus leisure, but paid work for Sector B versus unpaid, self- 
directed, and self-monitored work for Sector A. 

In the Third Wave context new life-styles based half on production for 
exchange, half on production for use, become practical. Such life- 
styles were, in fact, common in the early days of the industrial 
revolution among farm populations who were slowly being absorbed 
into the urban proletariat. For a long transitional period millions of 
people worked part-time in factories and part-time on the land, growing 
their own food, buying some of their necessities, making the rest. This 
pattern still prevails in many parts of the world — but usually on a 
technologically primitive basis. 

Imagine this life pattern — but with twenty-first century technology for 
goods and food production, as well as immensely enhanced self-help 
methods for the production of many services. Instead of a dress 
pattern, for example, tomorrow's prosumer might well buy a cassette 
with a program on it that will drive a "smart" electronic sewing machine. 
Even the clumsiest househusband, with such a cassette, could make 
his own custom-fitted shirts. Mechanically inclined tinkerers could do 
more than tune up their autos. They could actually half-build them. 

We saw that it "may become possible some day for the customer to 
program his or her own specifications into the auto manufacturing 
process via computer and telephone. But there is another way in which 
the consumer, even now, can participate in producing an auto. 



A company called Bradley Automotive already offers a "Bradley GT kit" 
that lets you "put together your own luxurious sports car." The 
prosumer who buys the partly preas-sembled kit mounts the fiberglass 
body on a Volkswagen chassis, connects the engine wires, sets up the 
steering, plugs in the seats, and so on. 

One can easily picture a generation brought up on part-time paid work 
as the norm, eager to use their own hands, equipped with many cheap 
mini-technologies in the home, forming a sizable segment of the 

population. Half in the market, half out, working intermittently rather 
than all year round, taking a year off now and then, they might well 
earn less — but compensate by supplying their own labor for many 
tasks that now cost money, thus mitigating the effects of inflation. 

America's Mormons offer another clue to possible future life-styles. 
Many Mormon stakes — a stake corresponds to, say, a Catholic 
diocese — own and operate their own farms. Members of the stake, 
including urban members, spend some of their free time as volunteer 
farmers growing food. Most of the produce is not sold but stored for 
emergency use or distributed to Mormons in need. There are central 
canning plants, bottling facilities, and grain elevators. Some Mormons 
grow their own food and take it to the cannery. Others actually buy 
fresh vegetables at the supermarket, then take them to the local 

Says a Salt Lake City Mormon, "My mother will buy tomatoes and can 
them. Her relief 'society,' the women's auxiliary society, will have a day 
and they'll all go and can tomatoes for their own use." Similarly, many 
Mormons not only contribute money to their church but actually 
perform volunteer labor — construction work, for example. 

None of this is to suggest that we are all going to become members of 
the Mormon church, or that it will be possible in the future to re-create 
on a wide scale the social and community bonds one finds in this 
highly participatory yet theologically autocratic group. But the principle 
of production for self-use, either by individuals or by organized groups, 
is likely to spread farther. 

Given home computers, given seeds genetically designed for urban or 
even apartment agriculture, given cheap home tools for working 
plastic, given new materials, adhesives, and membranes, and given 
free technical advice available over the telephone lines, with 
instructions perhaps flickering on the 



TV or computer screen, it becomes possible to create lifestyles that are 
more rounded and varied, less monotonous, more creatively satisfying, 
and less market-intensive than those that typified Second Wave 

It is still too early to know how far this shift of activity from exchange in 
Sector B to presumption in Sector A will go, how the balance between 
these sectors will vary from country to country, and which particular 
life-styles will actually emerge from it. What is certain, however, is that 
any significant change in the balance between production for use and 
production for exchange will set off depth charges under our economic 
system and our values as well. 


Is it possible that the much-bewailed decline of the Protestant work 
ethic is linked to this shift from production for others to production for 

self? Everywhere we see the decay of the industrial ethos that 
promoted hard work. Western executives mutter darkly about this 
"English disease" which is supposed to reduce us all to penury if we do 
not cure it. "Only the Japanese still work hard," they say. But I have 
heard top leaders of Japanese industry say that their labor force is 
suffering from the same infection. "Only the South Koreans work hard," 
they say. 

Yet the very people who are supposedly unwilling to work hard on the 
job are often the same people who are, in fact, working hard off the 
job — laying bathroom tile, weaving carpets, lending their time and 
talents to a political campaign, attending self-help meetings, sewing, 
growing vegetables in the garden, writing short stories, or remodeling 
the attic bedroom. Can it be that the driving motivation that powered 
the expansion of Sector B is now being channeled into Sector A — into 

The Second Wave brought with it more than steam engines and 
mechanical looms. It brought with it an immense charac-terological 
change. Today we can still see this shift occurring among .populations 
moving from First Wave to Second Wave societies — like the Koreans, 
for example, who are still busy expanding Sector B at the expense of 
Sector A. 

By contrast, in the mature Second Wave societies reeling under the 
impact of the Third Wave — as production moves back to Sector A and 
the consumer is drawn back into the 



production process — another characterological shift begins. Later on 
we will explore this fascinating change. For now we need only bear in 
mind that the structure of personality itself is likely to be heavily 
influenced by the rise of prosumption. 

Nowhere, however, are the changes wrought by the rise of the 
prosumer likely to be more explosive than in economics. Economists, 
instead of training all their guns on Sector B, will have to develop a 
new, more wholistic conception of an economy — will have to analyze 
what happens in Sector A as well and learn how the two parts relate to 
one another. 

As the Third Wave has begun to restructure the world economy, the 
economics profession has been savagely attacked for its inability to 
explain what is happening. Its most sophisticated tools, including 
computerized models and matrices, seem to tell us less and less about 
how the economy really works. Indeed, many economists themselves 
are concluding that conventional economic thought, both Western and 
Marxist, is out of touch with a f ast-changing reality. 

One key reason may be that, more and more, changes of great 
significance lie outside Sector B — i.e., outside the entire exchange 
process. To bring economists back in touch with reality Third Wave 

economists will need to develop new models, measures, and indices 
for describing processes in Sector A and will have to rethink many root 
assumptions in the light of the rise of the prosumer. 

Once we recognize that powerful relationships link the measured 
production (and productivity) in Sector B and the unmeasured 
production (and productivity) in Sector A, the invisible economy, we are 
compelled to redefine these terms. As early as the mid-1960's, 
economist Victor Fuchs of the National Bureau of Economic Research 
sensed the problem, pointing out that the rise of services made 
traditional measures of productivity obsolete. Declared Fuchs: "The 
knowledge, experience, honesty, and motivation of the consumer 
affects service productivity." 

But even in these words the "productivity" of the consumer Is still seen 
only in terms of Sector B — only as a contribution to production for 
exchange. There is no recognition as yet that actual production also 
takes place in Sector A — that goods and services produced for oneself 
are quite real, and that they may displace or substitute for goods and 
services turned out in Sector B. Conventional production figures, 
especially GNP figures, will make less and less sense until we 
explicitly expand them to include what happens in Sector A. 



An understanding of the rise of the prosumer also helps bring the 
concept of cost into sharper focus. Thus we gain powerful insights 
once we recognize that the effectiveness of the prosumer in Sector A 
can lead to higher or lower costs to companies or government 
agencies operating in Sector B. 

For example, high rates of alcoholism, absenteeism, nervous 
breakdowns, and mental disorder in the work force all add to the "cost 
of doing business" as measured conveniently in Sector B. (Alcoholism 
alone has been estimated to cost American industry $20 billion in 
production time a year. In Poland or the Soviet Union, where this 
disease is, if anything, more widespread, the comparable figures must 
be even more appalling.) To the degree that self-help groups alleviate 
such problems in the work force, they reduce these operating costs. 
The efficiency of presumption thus affects the efficiency of production. 

Subtler factors also influence the cost of production in business. How 
literate or articulate are the workers? Do they all speak the same 
language? Can they tell time? Are they culturally prepared for the job? 
Do the social skills learned in family life add to or detract from their 
competence? All these character traits, attitudes, values, skills, and 
motivations necessary for high productivity in Sector B, the exchange 
sector, are produced or, more accurately, presumed in Sector A. The 
rise of the prosumer — the reintegration of the consumer into 
production — will force us to look far more closely at such 

The same powerful change will compel us to redefine efficiency. 

Today, in determining efficiency, economists compare alternative ways 
of producing the same product or service. They seldom compare the 
efficiency of producing it in Sector B as against that of presuming it in 
Sector A. Yet this is precisely what millions of people — supposedly 
innocent of economic theory — are doing. They are finding that, once a 
certain level of money income is assured, it may be more profitable, 
economically as well as psychologically, to pro-sume than to earn 
more cash. 

Nor do economists or businessmen systemically track the negative 
effects of Sector B efficiency on Sector A — as for example when a 
company demands extremely high mobility of its executives and 
causes a wave of stress-related illness, family breakdown, or 
increased alcohol intake as a result. We may very well find that what 
appears to be inefficient in con- 



ventional Sector B terms is, in fact, tremendously efficient when we 
look at the whole economy and not just part of it. 

To make sense, "efficiency" must refer to secondary, not merely first 
order, effects, and to both sectors of the economy, not just one. 

What about concepts like "income," "welfare," "poverty," or 
"unemployment"? If a person lives half-in and half-out of the market 
system, which products, tangible or intangible, are to be regarded as 
part of his or her income? How meaningful are income figures at all hi 
a society in which presuming may account for much of what the 
average person has? 

How do we define welfare hi such a system? Should welfare recipients 
work? If so, should all this work necessarily be in Sector B? Or should 
welfare recipients be encouraged to presume? 

What is the real meaning of unemployment? Is a laid-off auto worker 
who puts a new roof on his house, or overhauls his car, unemployed in 
the same sense as one who sits idly at home watching football on 
television? The rise of the pro-sumer forces us to question our entire 
way of looking at the twin problems of unemployment, on the one 
hand, and bureaucratic waste and featherbedding, on the other. 

Second Wave societies have attempted to cope with unemployment, 
for example, by resisting technology, closing off immigration, creating 
labor exchanges, increasing exports, decreasing imports, setting up 
public works programs, cutting back on work hours, attempting to 
increase labor mobility, deporting whole populations, and even waging 
war to stimulate the economy. Yet the problem becomes more 
complex and difficult every day. 

Can it be that the problems of labor supply — both gluts and 
shortages — can never be satisfactorily solved within the framework of 
a Second Wave society, whether capitalist or socialist? By looking at 

the economy as a whole, rather than focusing exclusively on one part 
of it, can we frame the problem in a new way that helps us solve it? 

If production occurs in both sectors, if people are busy producing 
goods and services for themselves in one sector and for others in a 
different sector, how does this affect the argument over a guaranteed 
minimum income for all? Typically, in Second Wave societies income 
has been inextricably linked to work for the exchange economy. But 
are not pro-sumers also "working," even if they are not part of the 
market or are only partially in it? Should not a man or 



woman who stays home and rears a child, thereby contributing to the 
productivity of Sector B through his or her efforts in Sector A, receive 
some income, even if he or she does not hold down a paid job in 
Sector B? 

The rise of the prosumer will decisively alter all our economic thinking. 
It will also shift the basis of economic conflict. The competition 
between worker-producers and manager-producers will no doubt 
continue. But it will shrink in importance as presuming increases and 
we move farther into Third Wave society. In its place new social 
conflicts will arise. 

Battles will flare over which needs will be met by which sector of the 
economy. Struggles will sharpen, for example, over licensing, building 
codes, and the like, as Second Wave forces attempt to hold on to jobs 
and profits by preventing prosumers from moving in. Teachers' unions 
typically fight to keep parents out of the classroom with all the zeal of 
building tradesmen fighting to preserve obsolete building codes. Yet 
just as a number of health problems (like those deriving from 
overeating, lack of exercise, or smoking, for example) cannot be 
solved by doctors alone but require instead the active participation of 
the patient, so a number of educational problems cannot be resolved 
without the parent. The rise of the prosumer changes the entire 
economic landscape. 

Thus all these effects will be intensified and the entire world economy 
changed by a massive historical fact now staring us in the face— which 
seems to have gone unnoticed by Second Wave economists and 
thinkers. This last towering fact sets into perspective all we have so far 
read in this chapter. 


What has gone almost unnoticed is not merely a change in Ihe 
patterns of participation in the market but, even more fundamentally, 
the completion of the entire historical process of market-building. This 
turning point is so revolutionary in its implications, yet so subtle, that 
capitalist and Marxist thinkers alike, lost in their Second Wave 
polemics, have scarcely noticed its signs. It fits into neither of their 
theories and thus has remained undetectable by them. 

The human race has been busy constructing a worldwide exchange 
network — a market — for at least 10,000 years. In 



the past 300 years, ever since the Second Wave began, this process 
has roared forward at very high speed. Second Wave civilization 
"marketized" the world. Today — at the very moment when presuming 
begins to rise again — this process is coming to an end. 

The immense historical meaning of this cannot be appreciated unless 
we are clear about what a market or exchange network is. It helps to 
imagine it as a pipeline. When the industrial revolution burst forth on 
the earth, launching the Second Wave, very few people on the planet 
were tied into the money system. Trade existed but only the 
peripheries of society were touched by it. The various networks of 
jobbers, distributors, wholesalers, retailers, bankers, and other 
elements of the trade system were small and rudimentary — providing 
only a few narrow pipelines through which goods and money might 

For 300 years we poured earth-cracking energies into building this 
pipeline. It was accomplished in three ways. First the merchants and 
mercenaries of Second Wave civilization spread around the globe, 
inviting or coercing new populations to enter the market — to produce 
more and presume less. Self-sufficient African tribesmen were induced 
or compelled to grow cash crops and dig copper. Asian peasants who 
once grew their own food were put to work on plantations instead, 
tapping rubber trees to put tires on automobiles. Latin Americans 
began growing coffee for sale hi Europe and the United States. With 
each such development the pipeline was built or further elaborated and 
more and more populations drawn into dependence on it. 

The second way in which the market expanded was through the 
increasing "commoditization" of life. Not only were larger populations 
enmeshed in the market but more and more goods and services were 
designed for the market, requiring a continual enlargement of the 
"channel capacity" of the system — a widening, as it were, of the 
diameter of the pipes. 

Finally, the market expanded in another way. As society and the 
economy grew more complex, the number of transac- I tions required 
for, say, a single bar of soap to pass from producer to consumer 
multiplied. The more intermediaries, the I more ramified the maze of 
channels or pipes became. This growing elaborateness of the system 
was itself a form of further development, like the addition of still more 
special tubes and valves to a pipeline. 



Today all these forms of market expansion are reaching their outer 
limits. Few populations still remain to be brought into the market. Only 

a handful of the remotest people remain untouched by the market. 

Even the hundreds of millions of subsistence farmers in poor countries 
are at least partially integrated into the market and the accompanying 
money system. 

What remains, therefore, is a mopping-up operation at best. The 
market can no longer expand by engulfing vast new populations. 

The second form of expansion is still at least theoretically possible. 
With imagination, we can still, no doubt, think up additional services or 
goods to to sell or barter. But it is precisely here that the rise of the 
prosumer becomes significant. The relationships between Sector A 
and Sector B are complex, and many of the activities of prosumers 
depend on the purchase of materials or took from the market. But the 
rise of self-help, in particular, and the de-marketization of many goods 
and services suggests that here, too, the end of the process of 
marketization may be in sight 

Lastly, the increasing elaborateness of the ''pipeline" — the growing 
complexity of distribution, the interpolation of more and more 
middlemen — also appears to be reaching a point of no return. The 
costs of exchange itself, even as conventionally measured, are now 
outrunning the costs of material production in many fields. At some 
point this process reaches a limit. Computers, meanwhile, and the 
emergence of a pro-sumer-activated technology both point to smaller 
inventories and simplified, rather than more complex, chains of 
distribution. Once again, therefore, the evidence points to the end of 
the process of marketization, if not in our time, then soon after. 

If our "pipeline project" is nearing completion, what might (his mean for 
our work, our values, and our psyches? A market, after all, does not 
consist of the steel or shoes or cot-ion or canned food that flows 
through it. The market is the siructure through which such goods and 
services are routed. Moreover, it is not simply an economic structure. It 
is a way of organizing people, a way of thinking, an ethos, and a 
•shared set of expectations (e.g., the expectation that goods 
purchased will indeed be delivered). The market is thus as much a 
psychological structure as an economic reality. And its (•fleets far 
transcend economics. « 

By systematically interrelating billions of people to one an- 


other, the market produced a world in which no one had independent 
control over his or her destiny — no person, no nation, no culture. It 
brought with it the belief that integration into the market was 
"progressive" while self-sufficiency was "backward." It spread vulgar 
materialism and the belief that economics and economic motivation 
were the primary forces in human life. It fostered a view of life as a 
succession of contractual transactions, and of society as bound 
together by the "marriage contract" or the "social contract." 

Marketization thus shaped the thoughts and values, as well as the 
actions, of billions and set the tone of Second Wave civilization. 

It took an enormous investment of time, energy, capital, culture, and 
raw materials to create a situation in which a purchasing agent in 
South Carolina could do business with an unseen and unknown clerk 
in South Korea — each with his or her own abacus or computer, each 
with an internalized image of the market, each with a set of 
expectations about the other, each performing certain predictable acts 
because both have been life-trained to play certain prespecified roles, 
each part of a giant global system involving millions, indeed billions, of 

One might plausibly argue that the construction of this elaborate 
structure of human relationships, and its explosive diffusion around the 
planet, was the single most impressive achievement of Second Wave 
civilization, dwarfing even its spectacular technological achievements. 
The step-by-step creation of this essentially sociocultural and 
psychological structure for exchange (quite apart from the torrent of 
goods and services that flowed through it) can be likened to the 
building of the Egyptian pyramids, the Roman aqueducts, the Chinese 
wall, and the medieval cathedrals, combined and multiplied a 

This grandest construction project of all history, the laying into place of 
the tubes and channels through which much ol the economic life of 
civilization pulsed and flowed, gave Sec* ond Wave civilization 
everywhere its inner dynamism and propulsive thrust. Indeed, if this 
now dying civilization can be said to have had a mission at all, it was to 
marketize t world. 

Today that mission is all but fulfilled. 

The heroic age of market -building is over — to be replaced by a new 
phase in which we merely maintain, renovate, and update the pipeline. 
We will undoubtedly have to redesign 


important pieces of it to accommodate radically increased Hows of 
information. The system will increasingly depend on electronics, 
biology, and new social technologies. This, too, will no doubt require 
resources, imagination, and capital. But compared with the exhausting 
effort of Second Wave marketization, this renewal program will absorb 
a far smaller fraction of our time, energy, capital, and imagination. It 
will use less, not more, hardware and fewer, not more, people lhan the 
original process of construction. However complex conversion proves 
to be, marketization will no longer be the central project of the 

The Third Wave will therefore produce history's first "trans -market" 

By trans-market I do not mean a civilization without exchange 
networks — a world thrown back into small, isolated, completely self- 
sufficient communities unable or unwilling to trade with one another. I 

do not mean a move backward. By "trans -market" I mean a civilization 
that is dependent on the market but is no longer consumed by the 
need to build, extend, elaborate, and integrate this structure. A 
civilization able to move on to a new agenda — precisely because the 
market has already been laid in place. 

And just as no one living in the sixteenth century could have imagined 
how the growth of the market would change the world's agenda in 
terms of technology, politics, religion, art, social life, law, marriage, or 
personality development — so too it is extremely difficult for us today to 
envision the long-range effects of the end of marketization. 

Yet these are likely to radiate into every cranny of our children's lives, if 
not our own. The marketization project exacted a price. Even in purely 
economic terms this price was enormous. As the productivity of the 
human race rose during the past three hundred years, a significant part 
of that productivity — in both sectors — was set aside and allocated to 
the market-building project. 

With the basic construction task now virtually complete, the enormous 
energies previously poured into building the world market system 
become available for other human purposes. From this fact alone will 
flow a limitless array of civil izafional changes. New religions will be 
born. Works of art mi a hitherto unimagined scale. Fantastic scientific 
advances. And, above all, wholly new kinds of social and political insti- 
(niions. What is at stake today is more than capitalism or social- 



ism, more than energy, food, population, capital, raw material, or jobs; 
what is at stake is the role of the market in our lives and the future of 
civilization itself. 

This, at its core, is what the rise of the prosumer is about. 

Change in the deep-structure of the economy is part of the same wave 
of interrelated changes now striking our energy base, our technology, 
our information system, and our family and business institutions. These 
are intertwined, hi turn, with the way we view the world. And in this 
sphere, too, we are undergoing an historic upheaval. For the entire 
world view of industrial civilization — indust-reality — is now being 


Never before have so many people in so many countries — even 
educated and supposedly sophisticated people — been so intellectually 
helpless, drowning, as it were, in a maelstrom of conflicting, confusing, 
and cacophonous ideas. Colliding visions rock our mental universe. 

Every day brings some new fad, scientific finding, religion, movement, 
or manifesto. Nature worship, ESP, holistic medicine, sociobiology, 

anarchism, structuralism, neo-Marxism, the new physics. Eastern 
mysticism, technophilia, technopho-bia, and a thousand other currents 
and crosscurrents sweep across the screen of consciousness, each 
with its scientific priesthood or ten-minute guru. 

We see a mounting attack on establishment science. We see a wildfire 
revival of fundamentalist religion and a desperate search for 
something — almost anything — to believe in. 

Much of this confusion is actually the result of an intensifying cultural 
war — the collision of an emerging Third Wave culture with the 
entrenched ideas and assumptions of industrial society. For just as the 
Second Wave engulfed traditional views and spread the belief system I 
call mdust-reality, so today we see the beginnings of a philosophical 
revolt aimed at overthrowing the reigning assumptions of the past 300 
years. The key ideas of the industrial period are being discredited, 
discounted, superseded, or subsumed into much larger and moFe 
powerful theories. 

The core beliefs of Second Wave civilization did not win acceptance 
during the past three centuries without a bitter struggle. In science, in 
education, in religion, in a thousand 



fields, the "progressive" thinkers of industrialism fought against the 
"reactionary" thinkers who reflected and rationalized agricultural 
societies. Today it is the defenders of industrialism who have their 
backs against the wall as a new, Third Wave culture begins to take 


Nothing illustrates this clash of ideas more clearly than our changing 
image of nature. 

In the past decade a worldwide environmental movement has sprung 
up in response to fundamental, potentially dangerous changes in the 
earth's biosphere. And this movement has done more than attack 
pollution, food additives, nuclear reactors, highways, and hair-spray 
aerosols. It has also forced us to rethink our dependency on nature. As 
a consequence, instead of conceiving ourselves as engaged in a 
bloody war with nature, we are moving toward a fresh view that 
emphasizes symbiosis or harmony with the earth. We are shifting from 
an adversary to a nonadversary posture. 

At the scientific level, this has led to thousands of studies aimed at 
understanding ecological relationships so that we can soften our 
impacts on nature or channel them in constructive ways. We have just 
begun to appreciate the complexity and dynamism of these 
relationships and to reconceptualize society itself in terms of recycling, 
renewability, and the carrying capacity of natural systems. 

All this is mirrored in a corresponding shift of popular attitudes toward 
nature. Whether we examine opinion surveys or the lyrics of pop 
songs, the visual imagery in advertising or the content of sermons, we 
find evidence of a heightened, though often romantic, regard for 

City dwellers by the millions yearn for the countryside, and the Urban 
Land Institute reports a significant population shift toward rural areas. 
Interest in natural foods and natural childbirth, in breastfeeding, 
biorhythms, or body care has boomed in recent years. And public 
suspicion of technology is so widespread that even the most single- 
minded pursuers of GNP today pay at least lip service to the idea that 
nature must be protected, not raped — that the adverse side effects of 
technology on nature must be anticipated and prevented, not simply 


Because our power to damage it has escalated, the earth now is 
regarded as far more fragile than Second Wave civilization suspected. 
At the same time, it is seen as a diminishing dot in a universe that 
grows larger and more complex with every passing moment. 

Since the Third Wave began some 25 years ago, scientists have 
developed a whole battery of new tools for probing nature's most 
distant reaches. In turn these lasers, rockets, accelerators, plasmas, 
fantastic photographic capabilities, computers, and colliding-beam 
devices have burst our conception of what surrounds us. 

We are now looking at phenomena that are bigger, smaller, and faster 
by orders of magnitude than any we examined during the Second 
Wave past. Today we are probing phenomena that are as tiny as 
I/I, 000, COO, 000, 000, OOOth of a centimeter in an explorable universe 
whose edge lies at least 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 miles 
away. We are studying phenomena so short-lived that they occur in 
1/1 0,000, 000, -000, 000, 000, 000, OOOth of a second. By contrast, our 
astronomers and cosmologists tell us the universe is some 
20,000,000,000 years old. The sheer scale of explorable nature has 
burst beyond yesterday's wildest assumptions. 

Moreover, in this swirling vastness, we are told, the earth may not be 
the only inhabited sphere. Says astronomer Otto Struve, "the vast 
number of stars that must possess planets, the conclusions of many 
biologists that life is an inherent property of certain types of 
complicated molecules or aggregates of molecules, the uniformity 
throughout the universe of the chemical elements, the light and heat 
emitted by solar-type stars, and the occurrence of water not only on 
the earth but on Mars and Venus, compel us to revise our thinking" and 
consider the possibility of extraterrestrial life. 

This doesn't mean little green humanoids. And it doesn't mean (or not 
mean) UFOs. But by suggesting that life is not unique to the earth, it 
further alters our perception of nature and our place in it. Since 1960, 
scientists have been listening in the dark, hoping to detect signals from 

some distant intelligence. The United States Congress has held 
hearings on "The Possibility, of Intelligent Life Elsewhere in the 
Universe." And the Pioneer 10 spacecraft, as it streaked into 
interstellar space carried with it a pictorial greeting to extraterrestrials. 

As the Third Wave dawns, our own planet seems much smaller and 
more vulnerable. Our place in the universe seems 



less grandiose. And even the remote possibility that we are not alone 
gives us pause. 

Our image of nature is not what it used to be. 


Neither is our image of evolution — or, for that matter, evolution itself. 

Biologists, archaeologists, and anthropologists, attempting to unravel 
the mysteries of evolution, similarly find themselves in a bigger and 
more complex world than previously imagined and are discovering that 
laws once regarded as universal in application are actually special 

Says the Nobel Prize-winning geneticist Francois Jacob, "Since 
Darwin, biologists have gradually developed a ... chart of the 
mechanism of evolution, called natural selection. On that basis 
attempts have often been made to portray all evolution — cosmic, 
chemical, cultural, ideological, social — as governed by a similar 
selection mechanism. But such understandings seem doomed, 
inasmuch as the rules change at every plane." 

Even on the biological plane, rales once thought to apply across the 
board are in question. Thus scientists are being forced to ask whether 
all biological evolution is a response to variation and natural selection 
or whether, at the molecular level, it may depend instead on an 
accumulation of variations which result in "genetic drift" without the 
operation of Darwinian natural selection. Says Dr. Motoo Kimura of the 
National Institute of Genetics in Japan, evolution at the molecular level 
appears to be "quite incompatible with the expectations of neo- 

Other long held assumptions are being shaken as well. Biologists have 
told us that eukaryotes (human beings and most other forms of life) are 
ultimately descended from simpler cells called prokaryotes (among 
which are bacteria and algae) . Fresh research is now undermining 
that theory, leading to the unsettling notion that the simpler life forms 
may have descended from the more complex. 

Furthermore, evolution is supposed to favor adaptations that enhance 
survival. Yet we are now finding striking examples of evolutionary 
developments that seem to confer long-term benefit — at the cost of 
short-term disadvantage. Which does evolution favor? 



Then there is the startling news from, of all places, the 

< -I. ml Park Zoo in Atlanta, where the chance mating of two i'" H-S of 
ape with two quite different sets of chromosomes 

1 1 us produced the first known hybrid ape. Even though re-*H i re hers 
are unsure whether the hybrid will be fertile, her bi--*, 1 1 n- genetics 
lend support to the idea that evolution may <" nif in leaps and bounds 
as well as through the accretion of •.iii.i II changes. 

Indeed, instead of seeing evolution as a smooth process, ni.iiiy of 
today's life scientists and archaeologists are studying i In- "theory of 
catastrophes" to explain "gaps" and "jumps" in (he multiple branches of 
the evolutionary record. Others MM- studying small changes that may 
have been amplified through feedback into sudden structural 
transformations. M.-;itcd controversies divide the scientific community 
over ev- 

< i y one of these issues. 

Hut all such controversies are dwarfed by a single history -chnnging 

One day in 1953 at Cambridge in England a young biolo-/*i-.i, James 
Watson, was sitting in the Eagle pub when his col-lengtie, Francis 
Crick, ran excitedly in and announced to "< vcryone within hearing 
distance that we had found the '.< net of life." They had. Watson and 
Crick had unraveled the structure of DNA. 

liy 1957, as the first stirrings of the Third Wave were IH-MIJT felt, Dr. 
Arthur Kornberg learned how DNA repro-. lures itself. Since then, as 
one popular summary describes • In- sequence, "We have cracked the 
DNA code . . . We Imvc learned how DNA transmits its instructions to 
the cell , . . We have analyzed chromosomes to determine genetic - 
function . . . We have synthesized a cell . . . We have fused «<lh from 
two different species . . . We have isolated pure lum i an genes . . . We 
have 'mapped' genes . . . We have syn-liicsi/cd a gene . . . We have 
changed the heredity of a cell." I «>i lay genetic engineers in 
laboratories around the world are < M pa hie of creating entirely novel 
life forms. They have end-ii Ml evolution itself. 

Second Wave thinkers conceived of the human species as Hn 
culmination of a long evolutionary process; Third Wave H iink-ers must 
now face the fact that we are about to become i In designers of 
evolution. Evolution will never look the 

I .ike the concept of nature, evolution too is in the process being 
drastically reconceptualized. 


With Second Wave ideas about nature and evolution both changing, it 
is hardly surprising that we are also sharply re-evaluating Second 
Wave ideas about progress. The industrial period was characterized, 
as we saw earlier, by a facile optimism that saw each scientific 
breakthrough or "new improved product" as evidence of an inevitable 
advance toward human perfection. Since the mid-1950's, when the 
Third Wave began battering Second Wave civilization, few ideas have 
taken as rough a beating as this cheery creed. 

The "beats" of the fifties and the hippies of the sixties made pessimism 
about the human condition, not optimism, a pervasive cultural theme. 
These movements did much to replace knee-jerk optimism with knee- 
jerk despair. 

Soon pessimism became positively chic. Hollywood movies of the 
1950's and 1960's, for example, replaced the jut -jawed i heroes of the 
1930's and 1940's with alienated antiheroes — rebels without a cause, 
stylish gunmen, dope pushers with eharm, angst-ridden motorcyclists, 
and hard, inarticulate (but soulful) punks. Life was a game nobody 

Fiction, drama, and art also took on a graveyard hopelessness in many 
Second Wave nations. By the early fifties, Camus had already defined 
the themes that countless novelists would subsequently pursue. A 
British critic summed these up as: "Man is fallible, political theories are 
relative, auto-, matic progress is a mirage." Even science fiction, once 
filled with Utopian adventures, turned bitter and pessimistic, gener-1 
ating countless poor imitations of Huxley and Orwell. 

Technology, instead of being portrayed as the engine of progress, 
increasingly appeared as a juggernaut destroying\ both human 
freedom and the physical environment. For! many environmentalists, 
indeed, "progress" became a dirty \ word. Weighty volumes poured into 
the bookshops, bearing] titles like The Stalled Society, The Coming 
Dark Age, /rtl Danger of Progress, or The Death of Progress. 

As Second Wave society lurched into the seventies, The j Club of 
Rome report on The Limits to Growth set a funerealj tone for much of 
the decade that followed, with its projeoJ tions of catastrophe for the 
industrial world. UpheavalsJ unemployment, and inflation, intensified 
by the oil embargo! of 1973, added to the spreading pall of pessimism 
and the re«i jection of the idea of inevitable human progress. Henry 
Kiss-] inger spoke in Spenglerian accents about the decline of thei 



West — sending yet another frisson of fear down a good many spines. 

Whether such despair was, or is, justified remains for each lender to 
decide. One thing is clear, however: the notion of inevitable single- 
track progress, another pillar of indust-real-lty, found fewer takers as 
the end of Second Wave civilization loomed closer. 

Today there is a fast-spreading recognition around the world that 
progress can no longer be measured in terms of technology or material 
standard of living alone — that a society that is morally, aesthetically, 
politically, or environmentally degraded is not an advanced society, no 
matter how rich or technically sophisticated it may be. In short, we are 
moving toward a far more comprehensive notion of progress — 
progress no longer automatically achieved and no longer ill-lined by 
material criteria alone. 

We are also less inclined to think of societies as moving itlong one 
track, each society traveling automatically from one cultural way- 
station to the next, one more "advanced" limn another. There may be 
many branch lines, as it were, milier than a single roadbed, and 
societies may be able to nrliieve comprehensive development in a 
variety of ways. 

We are beginning to think of progress as the flowering of a tree with 
many branches extending into the future, the very vniiety and richness 
of human cultures serving as a measure. In (his light, today's shift 
toward a more diverse, de-massified world may itself come to be seen 
as an important forward Imp — analogous to the tendency toward 
differentiation and • "inplexity so common in biological evolution. 

Whatever happens next, it is unlikely that the culture will i \< i again 
return to the naive, unilinear, Pollyannaish pro-jnrssivism that 
characterized and inspired the Second Wave PI ii. 

Hie past decades, therefore, have witnessed a forced i.-. 
onecptualization of nature, evolution, and progress alike, i inc 
concepts, however, were in turn based on still more el-rinrntal ideas — 
our assumptions about time, space, matter, ninl rmisality. And the 
Third Wave is dissolving even these H mnpiions — the intellectual glue 
that held Second Wave civ-together. 



Each emerging civilization brings with it not merely changes in how 
people handle time in daily life but also changes in their mental maps 
of time. The Third Wave is redrawing these temporal maps. 

Second Wave civilization, from Newton on, assumed that time ran 
along a single line from the mists of the past into the most distant 
future. It pictured time as absolute, uniform throughout all parts of the 
universe, and independent of matter and space. It assumed that each 
moment, or chunk of tune, was the same as the next. 

Today, according to John Gribbin, an astrophysicist-turned-science- 
writer, "Sober scientists with impeccable academic credentials and 

years of research experience calmly inform us that. . . time isn't 
something that flows inexorably forward at the steady pace indicated 
by our clocks and calendars, but that it can be warped and distorted in 
nature, with the end product being different depending on just where 
you are measuring it from. At the ultimate extreme, supercol-lapsed 
objects — black holes — can negate time altogether, making it stand still 
in their vicinity." 

By the turn of the century Einstein had already proved that time could 
be compressed and stretched, and had dynamited the notion that time 
is absolute. He put forth the now classic case of the two observers and 
the railroad track, which went more or less like this: 

A man standing alongside a railroad track sees two bolts of lightning 
strike at the same time — one at the far north end of the track, the other 
at the south. The observer is mid-Way between the two. A second 
fellow is sitting in a high-speed train rocketing northward along the 
track. As he passes the observer outside he, too, sees the bolts of 
lightning. But to him the two flashes do not appear as simultaneous. 
Because the train is speeding him away from one and toward the 
other, the light from one reaches him sooner than the light from the 
other. To the man on the moving train it appears that the northern flash 
occurs first. 

While in daily life the distances are so small and the speed of light so 
fast that the difference would be unnoticeable, the example dramatized 
Einstein's point: that the chronological order of events — what comes 
first, second, or later in time — depends upon the velocity of the 
observer. Time is not absolute, but relative. 



This is a long way from the kind of time on which classical physics and 
indust-reality were based. Both took for granted that "before" or "after" 
had a fixed meaning hide-pendent of any observer. 

Today physics is both exploding and imploding. Every day its 
practitioners hypothesize — or find — new elementary particles or 
astrophysical phenomena, from quarks to quasars, with amazing 
implications, some of which are forcing additional changes in our 
conceptions of time. 

At one end of the scale, for example, black holes appear to punctuate 
the skies, sucking into themselves everything, including light itself, 
straining — if not smashing — the laws of physics. These dark 
maelstroms, we are told, terminate in "singularities" into which energy 
and matter simply vanish. Physicist Roger Penrose has even posited 
the existence of "wormholes" and "white holes" through which the lost 
energy and matter are spewed into another universe — whatever that 
might mean. 

A single moment in the vicinity of a black hole, it is believed, might be 
the equivalent of eons on earth. Thus if some Interstellar Mission 
Control were to send a spaceship to explore a black hole, we might 

have to wait a million years for the ship to arrive. Yet because of 
gravitational distortion In the vicinity of the black hole, not to mention 
the effects of velocity, the ship's clock would show the passage of only 
a few minutes or seconds. 

When we leave the vast heavens and enter the world of microscopic 
particles or waves, we find similarly puzzling phenomena. At Columbia 
University Dr. Gerald Feinberg has oven hypothesized particles called 
tachyons that move faster ihan light and for which — according to some 
of his colleagues — time moves backward. 

The British physicist J. G. Taylor tells us: "The microscopic notion of 
time is very different from the macroscopic." An-oihcr physicist, Fritjof 
Capra, puts it more simply. Time, he wiys, is "flowing at different rates 
in different parts of the universe." Increasingly, therefore, we cannot 
even speak of "lime" in the singular; there appear to be alternative and 
plural "times" operating under different rules in different parts of the 
universe or universes we inhabit. All of which knocks the props from 
under the Second Wave idea of uni-;l linear time — without substituting 
ancient notions of cy-< heal time. 

Ai precisely the same moment, therefore, that we are radi- 



cally restructuring our social uses of time — by introducing flextime on 
the job, by decoupling workers from the mechanical conveyor, and in 
the other ways described in Chapter Nineteen — we are also 
fundamentally reformulating our theoretical images of time. And while 
these theoretical discoveries seem at the moment to have no practical 
application to daily life, the same was true of those seemingly 
speculative chalk marks on the blackboard — the formulas that led 
ultimately to the smashing of the atom. 


Many of these changes in our conception of time also blast holes in our 
theoretical understanding of space, since the two are tightly 
interwoven. But we are altering our image of space in more immediate 
ways as well. 

We are changing the actual spaces in which all of us live, work, and 
play. How we get to work, how far and how frequently we travel, where 
we live — all these influence our experience of space. And all these are 
changing. In fact, as the Third Wave arrives we enter a new phase in 
humanity's relationship to space. 

The First Wave, which spread agriculture around the world, brought 
with it, as we saw earlier, permanent farming settlements in which 
most people lived out their entire lives within a few miles of their 
birthplace. Agriculture introduced a stay -put, spatially intensive 
existence, and fostered intensely local feelings — the village mentality. 

Second Wave civilization, by contrast, concentrated huge populations 
in great cities and, because it needed to draw resources from afar and 
to distribute goods at a distance, it bred mobile people. The culture it 
produced was spatially extensive and city- or nation- rather than 

The Third Wave alters our spatial experience by dispersing rather than 
concentrating population. While millions of people continue to pour into 
urban areas in the still-industrializing parts of the world, all the high- 
technology countries are already experiencing a reversal of this flow. 
Tokyo, London, Zurich, Glasgow, and dozens of other major cities are 
all losing population while middle-sized or smaller cities are showing 

The American Council of Life Insurance declares: "Some urban experts 
believe that the major U.S. city is a thing of the past." Fortune 
magazine reports that "transportation and 



rommuication technology has cut the cords that bound big • 
orporations to the traditional headquarters cities." And Huxiness Week 
entitles an article "The Prospect of a Nation With No Important Cities.'* 

This redistribution of and de-concentration of population will, in due 
time, alter our assumptions and expectations nhout personal as well as 
social space, about acceptable commuting distances, about housing 
density, and many other (liings. 

In addition to such changes, the Third Wave also appears to be 
generating a new outlook that is intensely local, yet global — even 
galactic. Everywhere we find a new concentration on "community" and 
"neighborhood," on local politics nnd local ties at the same time that 
large numbers of people — often the same ones who are most locally 
oriented — concern themselves with global issues and worry about 
famine or war 10,000 miles away. 

As advanced communications proliferate and we begin to shift work 
back into the electronic cottage, we will encourage this new dual focus, 
breeding large numbers of people who remain reasonably close to 
home, who migrate less often, who travel more perhaps for pleasure 
but far less often for business — while their minds and messages range 
across the entire planet and into outer space as well. The Third Wave 
mentality combines concern for near and far. 

We are also rapidly adopting more dynamic and relativistic Images of 
space. I have in my office several large blowups of satellite and U-2 
photographs of New York City and the surrounding area. The satellite 
photos look like fantastically In-.-mtiful abstractions, the sea a deep 
green, the coastline detailed against it. The U-2 photos show the city in 
infrared, find in such exquisite detail that the Metropolitan Museum nnd 
even individual planes parked on the ramps at La < inardia Airport are 
clearly visible. Referring to the planes at Tn Guardia, I asked a NASA 
official if, by further enlarging Ihe photos, one could actually see the 

stripes or symbols painted on the wings. He looked at me with amused 
tolerance and corrected me. "The rivets," he replied. 

But we are no longer limited to exquisitely refined still pic-inrcs. 
Professor Arthur H. Robinson, a cartographer at the I iniversity of 
Wisconsin, says that within a decade or so r;:d<-Mites will permit us to 
look at a living map — an animated , I, splay — of a city or a country and 
watch the activities on it n*; i hey take place. 



When this happens the map will no longer be a static representation 
but a movie — indeed an X ray in motion, since it will show not merely 
what is on the surface of the earth but also reveal, layer by layer, what 
lies below the surface and above it at each level of altitude. It will 
provide a sensitive, continually changing image of terrain and our 
relationships to it. 

Some map makers, meanwhile, are rebelling against the conventional 
world map seen in every Second Wave classroom. Since the industrial 
revolution the most commonly used map of the world has been based 
on Mercator's projection. While this type of map is convenient for 
ocean navigation, it wildly distorts the scale of land surfaces. A quick 
look at your handy atlas will — if it uses a Mercator map — show 
Scandinavia as larger than India, even though the latter is actually 
almost three times larger. 

Hot controversy rages among map makers over a new projection 
developed by Arno Peters, a German historian, to show land surfaces 
in proper proportion to one another. Peters charges that the distortions 
of the Mercator map have fostered the arrogance of the industrial 
nations and made it difficult for us to see the non-industrialized world in 
proper political, as well as cartographic, perspective. 

"Developing countries have been cheated with regard to their surface 
and their importance," Peters contends. His map, strange to the 
European or American eye, shows a shrunken Europe, a flattened and 
squashed Alaska, Canada, and Soviet Union, and a much elongated 
South America, Africa, Arabia, and India. Sixty thousand copies of the 
Peters map have been distributed in the non-industrial countries by the 
Weltmission, a German evangelical mission and other religious 

What this controversy underscores is the recognition that there is no 
single "right" map, but merely different images of space that serve 
different purposes. In the most literal sense the arrival of the Third 
Wave brings a new way of looking at the world. 


These deep changes in our views of nature, evolution, progress, time, 
and space begin coming together as we move from, a Second Wave 
culture that emphasized the study of 



things in isolation from one another to a Third Wave culture <li;it 
emphasizes contexts, relationships, and wholes. 

In the early fifties, at almost precisely the same time that biologists 
were breaking the genetic code, communications theorists and 
engineers at the Bell Labs, computer specialists ni IBM, physicists at 
Britain's Post Office Laboratory, and specialists at Le Centre National 
de Recherche Scientifique in l-ranee, also began a period of intense 
and exciting work. 

Drawing on "operations research" conducted during World War II, but 
advancing far beyond it, this work gave birth to the automation 
revolution and a whole new phylum or species of technology that 
underpins Third Wave production In factory and office. Along with the 
hardware, however, i-.ime a new way of thinking. For a key product of 
the automation revolution was the "systems approach." 

Whereas Cartesian thinkers emphasized the analysis of components, 
often at the expense of context, systems thinkers stressed what Simon 
Ramo, an early advocate of systems theory, called a "total, rather than 
a fragmentary, look fit problems." Emphasizing the feedback 
relationships among •ubsystems and the larger wholes formed by 
these units, systems thinking has had a pervasive cultural impact since 
the nml-1950's when it first began to seep out of the laboratories. Its 
language and concepts have been employed by social HI i entists and 
psychologists, by philosophers and foreign policy analysts, by logicians 
and linguists, by engineers and administrators. 

But the advocates of systems theory are not the only ones In the past 
decade or two who have urged a more integrative wny of looking at 

The revolt against narrow overspecialization also received a IK>ost 
from the environmental campaigns of the 1970's, as « » logists 
increasingly discovered the "web" of nature, the in-i(nclatedness of 
species, and the wholeness of ecosystems. "Non-environmentalists 
tend to want to separate things into • "inponents and to solve one thine 
at a time," wrote Barry I »|H-7 in Environmental Action. By contrast, 
"Environmen-i iM MS tend to see things quite differently. . . . Their 
instinct IN In balance the whole, not to solve a single part." The eco-il 
approach and the systems approach overlapped and Mi.nrtl the same 
thrust toward synthesis and the integration ni Knowledge. 

In universities, meanwhile, more and more calls were heard f'i 
interdisciplinary thinking. While departmental barriers 



still block the cross-fertilization of ideas and the integration of 
information in most universities, this demand for inter- or multi- 
disciplinary work is now so widespread it has an almost ritual quality. 

These changes in intellectual life were mirrored elsewhere in the 
culture as well. Eastern religions, for example, had long had a tiny 
fringe following among the European middle classes, but it was not 
until the disintegration of industrial society began in earnest that 
thousands of Western young people began lionizing Indian swamis, 
jamming the Astrodome to hear a 16-year-old guru, listening to ragas, 
opening Hindu-style vegetarian restaurants, and dancing down Fifth 
Avenue. The world, they suddenly chanted, was not broken into 
Cartesian chips: it was a "oneness." 

In the field of mental health, psychotherapists searched for ways to 
cure the "whole person" by employing gestalt therapy. A gestalt 
explosion erupted that saw the establishment of gestalt therapists and 
institutes throughout the United States. The goal of mis activity, 
according to psychotherapist Frederick S. Peris, was "to increase 
human potential through the process of integration" of the individual's 
sensory awareness, perceptions, and relationships with the outside 

In medicine, a "holistic health" movement has sprung up based on the 
notion that the well-being of the individual depends on an integration of 
the physical, the spiritual, and the mental. Mixing quackery with serious 
medical innovation, the movement gained enormous strength in the 
late 1970's. 

"A few years ago," reports Science, "it would have been unthinkable for 
the federal government to lend its sponsorship to a conference on 
health that featured such topics as faith healing, iridology, 
acupressure, Buddhist meditation, and electromedicine." Since then 
there has been "a virtual explosion of interest in alternative healing 
methods and systems, all of which go under the name of holistic 

With so much activity, on so many different levels, it is hardly 
surprising that the terms "wholism" or "holism" should have crept into 
the popular vocabulary. Today they are used almost indiscriminately. A 
World Bank expert calls for "a holistic understanding of ... urban 
shelter." A research group in the United States Congress demands 
long-range "holistic" studies. A curriculum expert claims to employ 
"holistic reading and scoring" in teaching school children to write. And 
a Beverly Hills beauty gym offers "holistic exercise." 



Each of these movements, fads, and cultural currents is different. But 
their common element is clear. All of them represent an attack on the 
assumption that the whole can be understood by studying the parts in 
isolation. Then* thrust is summed up in the words of philosopher Ervin 
Laszlo, a leading systems theorist: we are "part of an interconnected 
sys-lcm of nature, and unless informed 'generalists' make it their 

business to develop systematic theories of the patterns of into 
rconnection, our short-range projects and limited controllabilities may 
lead us to our own destruction." 

This attack on the fragmentary, on the partial and analytic has grown 
so fierce, in fact, that many fanatic "holists" blithely forget the parts in 
their pursuit of the ineffable whole. The result is not wholism at all but 
yet another fragmentation. Their wholism is halfism. 

More thoughtful critics, however, seek to balance Second Wave 
analytic skills with a much greater emphasis on synthesis. This idea 
was perhaps most clearly expressed by ecolo-gist Eugene P. Odum in 
urging his colleagues to combine wholism with reductionism — to look 
at whole systems as well ns their parts. "As components ... are 
combined to produce larger functional wholes," he declared when he 
and his more famous brother, Howard, jointly won the Prix de 1'lnstitut 
de In Vie, "new properties emerge that were not present or not evident 
at the next level below.... 

"This is not to say that we abandon reductionist science, since a great 
deal of good has resulted for mankind from this approach," but that the 
time has come to give equal backing to studies of "large-scale 
integrated systems." 

Taken together, systems theory, ecology, and the generalized 
emphasis on wholistic thinking — like our changing conceptions of time 
and space — are part of the cultural at-lfick on the intellectual premises 
of Second Wave civilization. That attack reaches its culmination, 
however, in the emerging new view of why things happen as they do: 
the new causality. 


Second Wave civilization gave us the comfortable assurance Mint we 
knew (or at least could know) what caused things to Imppcn. It told us 
that every phenomenon occupied a unique, <l> iiTminable location in 
space and time. It told us that the Nllme conditions always produced 
the same results. It told us 



that the entire universe consisted, so to speak, of cue sticks and 
billiard balls — causes and effects. 

This mechanistic view of causality was — and still is — extremely useful. 
It helps us cure disease, build giant skyscrapers, design ingenious 
machines, and assemble huge organizations. Yet, powerful as it is in 
explaining phenomena that work like simple machines, it has proved 
far less satisfactory in explaining phenomena like growth, decay, 
sudden breakthroughs to new levels of complexity, big changes that 
suddenly fizzle out or, conversely, those tiny — often chance — events 
that occasionally mushroom into giant, explosive forces. Today the 
Newtonian pool table is being shoved into a corner of the cosmic 
playroom. Mechanistic causality is seen as a special case applying to 

some but not all phenomena, and scholars and scientists all over the 
world are piecing together a new view of chance and causation more in 
keeping with our rapidly changing views of nature, evolution, and 
progress, of time, space, and matter. 

The Japanese-born epistemologist Magoroh Maruyama, the French 
sociologist Edgar Morin, information theorists like Stafford Beer and 
Henri Laborit, and many others are providing clues to how causation 
works in nonmechanical systems that live, die, grow, and undergo both 
evolution and revolution. The Belgian Nobel Prize-winner, Ilya 
Prigogine, offers us a staggering synthesis of the ideas of order and 
chaos, chance and necessity, and how these relate to causation. 

In part, the emerging Third Wave causality arises from a key concept 
of systems theory: the idea of feedback. A classical example used to 
illustrate this notion is the home thermostat that maintains room 
temperature at an even level. The thermostat turns on the furnace, 
then monitors the resulting temperature rise. When the room is warm 
enough, it turns the furnace off. When the temperature falls, it senses 
this change in its environment and flicks the furnace on again. 

What we see here is a feedback process that preserves equilibrium, 
damping down or suppressing change when it threatens to exceed a 
given level. Called "negative feedback," its function is to maintain 

Once negative feedback was defined and explored by information 
theorists and systems thinkers in the late 1940's and early 1950's, 
scientists began looking for examples or analogues of it. And with 
rising excitement, they found similar stability-protecting systems in 
every field from physiology (for example, the processes by which the 
body maintains its 



temperature) to politics (as in the way an "establishment" damps out 
dissent when it goes beyond an acceptable level). Negative feedback 
seemed to be at work all around us, reusing things to retain their 
equilibrium or stability. 

By the early 1960's, however, critics like Professor M.iruyama began to 
note that too much attention was being paid to stability and not enough 
to change. What was needed, he argued, was more research on 
"positive feedback" — processes that do not suppress change but 
amplify it, do not maintain stability but challenge it, sometimes even 
overwhelming it. Positive feedback, Maruyania emphasized, can lake a 
small deviation or "kick" in the system and magnify it into a giant 
structure-threatening shudder. 

If the first kind of feedback was change-reducing or "nega-live," here 
was a whole class of processes that were change-nmplifying or 
"positive," and both needed equal attention. Positive feedback could 
illuminate causation in many previously puzzling processes. 

Because positive feedback breaks stability and feeds on it-Ncif, it helps 
explain vicious circles — and virtuous ones. Imagine the thermostat 
again, but with its sensor or its trigger mechanism reversed. Every time 
the room got warm, the thermostat, instead of shutting off the furnace, 
would click it on, forcing the temperature to hotter and hotter levels. Or 
muj'ine the game of Monopoly (or, for that matter, the game of real-life 
economics) in which the more money a pl.iycr has, the more property 
he or she can buy, which means more rental income and therefore 
more money with which to buy property. Both are examples of positive 
feed-l-.irk at work. 

Positive feedback helps explain any process that is self-ex-citntory — 
like the arms race, for example, in which every lime the U.S.S.R. builds 
a new weapon the U.S. builds a big-!'<-i one, which then motivates the 
U.S.S.R. to build yet another 

• •in-... to the point of global insanity. 

And when we put negative and positive feedback together niul see how 
richly these two different processes interplay in 

• 'Miiplex organisms, from the human brain to an economy, «i. idling 
insights emerge. Indeed, once we as a culture recog- 

ihat any -truly complex system — whether a biological or-r ">iMII, a city, 
or the international political order — is likely i" h:ive within it both change 
amplifiers and change reducers, i-<--. Hive as well as negative feedback 
loops interacting with OM<- another, we begin to glimpse a whole new 
level of corn- 



plexity in the world with which we are dealing. Our understanding of 
causation is advanced. 

Yet another leap in understanding occurs when we further recognize 
that these change reducers and amplifiers are not necessarily built into 
biological or social systems from the beginning; they may be absent at 
first, then grow into place, as it were, sometimes as a result of what 
amounts to chance. A stray event can thus trigger a fantastic chain of 
unexpected consequences. 

This tells us why change is so often hard to track and extrapolate, so 
filled with surprise. It is why a slow, steady process can suddenly 
convert into an explosive change, or vice versa. And this in turn 
explains why similar starting conditions may lead to sharply dissimilar 
outcomes — an idea alien to the Second Wave mentality. 

The Third Wave causality that is gradually taking shape pictures a 
complex world of mutually interacting forces, a world filled with 
astonishment, with change amplifiers as well as reducers and many 
other elements as well — not just billiard balls clacking predictably and 
endlessly against one another on the cosmic pool table. It is a world far 
stranger than simple Second Wave mechanisms suggested. 

Is everything predictable in principle, as Second Wave mechanical 
causality implied? Or are things inherently, unavoidably unpredictable, 
as critics of mechanism have insisted? Are we governed by chance or 

Third Wave causality has exciting new things to say about this ancient 
contradiction as well. In fact, it helps us escape at last from the 
either/or trap that for so long has pitted de-terminists against anti- 
determinists — necessity against chance. And this may be its most 
important philosophical breakthrough. 


Dr. Ilya Prigogine and his teams of co-workers at the Free University of 
Brussels and the University of Texas at Austin have struck directly at 
Second Wave assumptions by showing how chemical and other 
structures leap to higher stages of differentiation and complexity 
through a combination of chance and necessity. It is for this work that 
Prigogine was awarded the Nobel Prize. 

Born in Moscow, brought to Belgium as a child, and fas- 



Hunted since youth by the problems of time, Prigogine was 

I -I i/,/.led by a seeming contradiction. On the one hand, there uM , the 
physicist's belief in entropy — that the universe is run-liiiij', down and 
that all organized patterns must eventually de-* Av. On the other, there 
was the biologist's recognition that hir itself is organization and that we 
are continually giving i lie to higher and higher, more and more 
complex organization. Entropy pointed in one direction, evolution in 

This led Prigogine to ask how higher forms of organization mine into 
being, and to years of research hi chemistry and physics in pursuit of 
the answer. 

Today Prigogine points out that in any complex system, 

II oin the molecules in a liquid to the neurons in a brain or i In- traffic in 
a city, the parts of the system are always under-roing small-scale 
change: they are in constant flux. The interior of any system is 
quivering with fluctuation. 

Sometimes, when negative feedback comes into play, these 
fluctuations are damped out or suppressed and the equilib-nuin of the 
system maintained. But, where amplifying or positive feedback is at 
work, some of these fluctuations may In- tremendously magnified — to 
the point at which the equilibrium of the entire system is threatened. 
Fluctuations arising in the outside environment may hit at this moment 
and I ml her amplify the mounting vibration — until the equilibrium «>l 
the whole is destroyed and the existing structure is tmmshed.* 

Whether the result of the runaway internal fluctuations or of r-Hk-rnal 
forces, or both, this breakup of the old equilibrium iiiicii results not in 
chaos or breakdown, but in the creation nl" ;t wholly new structure at a 
higher level. This new strue-IMH- may be more differentiated, internally 
interactive, and «oni pi ex than the old one, and needs more energy 
and matter ( UK! perhaps information and other resources) to sustain 
it-xi II. Speaking mainly about physical and chemical reactions, lint 
occasionally calling attention to social analogues, Prigo-l'Mic calls 
these new, more complex systems "dissipative *iiuctures." 

* H is illuminating to think of the economy in these terms. Supply and 

• !• in. UK! are maintained in equilibrium by various feedback 
processes. Unemployment, if intensified by positive feedback and not 
offset by ii. i iiivo feedback elsewhere in the system, can threaten the 
stability of i tin whole. Outside fluctuations — such as oil price hikes — 
may converge i" in :ike the internal swings and fluctuations wilder, until 
the equi-III.IHUU of the whole system is shattered. 



He suggests that evolution itself may be seen as a process leading 
toward increasingly complex and diversified biological and social 
organisms, through the emergence of new, higher-order dissipative 
structures. Thus, according to Prigogine, whose ideas have political 
and philosophical resonance as well as purely scientific meaning, we 
develop "order out of fluctuation" or, as the title of one of his lectures 
expresses it, "Order out of Chaos." 

This evolution, however, cannot be planned or predetermined in a 
mechanistic fashion. Until quantum theory came along, many leading 
Second Wave thinkers believed that chance played little or no role in 
change. The starting conditions of a process predetermined its 
outcome. Today in subatomic physics, for example, it is widely 
believed that chance dominates change. In recent years many 
scientists, like Jacques Monod in biology, Walter Buckley in sociology, 
or Maruyama in epistemology and cybernetics, have begun to fuse 
these opposites. 

Prigogine's work not only combines chance and necessity but actually 
stipulates their relationship to one another. In brief, he strongly 
suggests that at the precise point at which a structure "leaps" to a new 
stage of complexity, it is impossible, in practice and even in principle, 
to predict which of many forms it will take.* But once a pathway has 
been chosen, once the new structure comes into being, determinism 
dominates once more. 

In one colorful example he describes how termites create their highly 
structured nests out of apparently unstructured activity. They begin by 
crawling about a surface in random fashion, stopping here and there to 
deposit a bit of "goo.** These deposits are distributed by chance, but 
the substance contains a chemical attractant so that other termites are 
drawn to it. 

In this way, the goo begins to collect in a few places, gradually building 
up into a pillar or wall. If these buildups are isolated, work stops. But if 
by chance they are near one another, an arch results that then 
becomes the basis for the complex architecture of the nest. What 
begins with random activity turns into highly elaborate nonrandom 
structures. We see, as Prigogine puts it, "the spontaneous formation of 
coherent structures." Order out of chaos. 

* This presumably goes for the leap from Second Wave to Third Wave 
civilization as well as for chemical reactions. 



All this strikes hard at the old causality. Prigogine sums it up: "The laws 
of strict causality appear to us today as limit-ing situations, applicable 
to highly idealized cases, nearly as caricatures of the description of 
change . . . The science of complexity... leads to a completely different 

Instead of being locked into a closed universe that func-tioned like a 
mechanical clock, we find ourselves in a far more flexible system in 
which, as he says, "there is always the possibility of some instability 
leading to some new mecha-nism. We really have an- 'open universe.' 

As we move beyond Second Wave causal thinking, as we begin to 
think in terms of mutual influence, of amplifiers and reducers of system 
breaks and sudden revolutionary leaps, of dissipative structures and 
the fusion of chance and neces-sitty -in short, as we take off our 
Second Wave blinders — we merge blinking into a wholly new culture, 
the culture of the Third Wave. 

This new culture — oriented to change and growing diver-sity — attempts 
to integrate the new view of nature, of evolution and progress, the new, 
richer conceptions of time and space, and the fusion of reductionism 
and wholism, with a new causality. 

Indust-reality, which once seemed so powerful and com-plete, so all- 
encompassing an explanation of how the universe and its components 
fitted together, turns out now to have herein immensely useful. But its 
claims to universality are shattered. The super-ideology of the Second 
Wave will be seen, from the vantage point of tomorrow, to have been 
as provincial as it was self-serving. 

The decay of the Second Wave thought system leaves millions of 
people grasping desperately for something to hold on to- anything, 
from Texas Taoism to Swedish Sufism, from Philippine faith healing to 
Welsh witchcraft. Instead of consuming a new culture appropriate to 
the new world, they at -temp to import and implant old ideas 
appropriate to other times and places or to revive the fanatic faiths of 
their own ancestors who lived under radically different conditions. 

It is precisely the collapse of the industrial era mind-struc- 

ture, its growing irrelevance in the face of the new technolog- 
ical, social, and political realities, that gives rise to today's 
search for old answers, and to the continual stream of 
pseudo-intellectual fads that pop up, flash, and consume 
themselves at high speed. 


In the very midst of this spiritual supermarket, with its depressing 
razzmatazz and religious fakery, a positive new culture is being 
seeded — one appropriate to our time and place. Powerful new 
integrative insights are beginning to emerge, new metaphors for 
understanding reality. It is possible to glimpse the earliest beginnings 
of a new coherence and elegance as the cultural debris of industrialism 
is swept away by history's Third Wave of change. 

The super-ideology of Second Wave civilization that is now crumbling 
was reflected in the way industrialism organized the world. An image of 
nature based on discrete particles was mirrored in the idea of discrete, 
sovereign nation-states. Today, as our image of nature and matter 
change, the nation-state itself is being transformed — another step on 
the path toward a Third Wave civilization. 



At a time when the flames of nationalism burn fiercely n round the 
world — when national liberation movements proliferate in places like 
Ethiopia and the Philippines, when tiny islands like Dominica in the 
Caribbean or Fiji in the South Pacific declare then* nationhood and 
send delegates to the United Nations — a strange thing is happening in 
the high-technology world: instead of new nations arising, old ones are 
in danger of coming apart. 

As the Third Wave thunders across the earth, the nation-utate — the 
key political unit of the Second Wave era — is IK-ing squeezed by 
viselike pressures from above and below. 

One set of forces seeks to transfer political power downward from the 
nation-state to subnational regions and groups. The others seek to 
shift power upward from the nation to tiansnational agencies and 
organizations. Together they are leading toward a crack-up of the high- 
technology nations into Ninaller and less powerful units, as a look 
around the world quickly reveals. 


ft is August 1977. Three hooded men sit at a makeshift inMo, a lantern 
at one end, a guttering candle at the oilu-i, a llnr draped across its 
middle. On the flag: an angry man'* liH-c with a swirling headband, and 

the letters FLNC. Pen IMP Hiiough their eye-slits, the men tell their 
story to a huddle <>l n« w .men who have been brought blindfolded to 
the u-n«i.-/. 




vous. The hooded ones announce that they are responsible for the 
bombing of the Serra-di-Pigno television repeater station — the only 
Corsican source of French telecasts. They want Corsica to secede 
from France. 

Seething because Paris traditionally looked down its nose at them and 
because the French government had done little to develop then* island 
economy, Corsicans were angered anew when units of the French 
Foreign Legion were shipped to bases hi Corsica after the Algerian 
war. The locals were further outraged when the government gave the 
pieds noirs — ex-colonials from Algeria — subsidies and special rights to 
settle in Corsica. Settlers arrived hi hordes and promptly bought up 
many of the island's vineyards (the main industry, apart from tourism), 
leaving the Corsicans to feel even more like strangers on their own 
island. Today France has a small-scale Northern Ireland brewing on its 
Mediterranean island. 

At the opposite end of the country, too, long-simmering separatist 
sentiments have flared up hi recent years. In Brittany, with high 
unemployment and some of the lowest wage scales hi France, the 
separatist movement has widespread popular support. It is split into 
rival parties and has a terrorist arm whose members have been 
arrested for bombing public buildings including the palace at Versailles. 
Meanwhile Paris is beset with demands for cultural and regional 
autonomy in Alsace and Lorraine, parts of the Languedoc, and other 
sections of the country. 

Across the Channel, Britain confronts comparable, though less violent, 
pressures from the Scots. In the early 1970's, talk about Scottish 
nationalism was regarded as a joke in London. Today, with North Sea 
oil providing the potential for Scotland's independent economic 
development, the issue is not funny at all. While a move to create a 
separate Scottish assembly was defeated in 1979, pressures for 
autonomy run deep. Long irked by government policies that favored 
the economic development of the South, Scottish nationalists now 
charge that then- own economy is poised for a takeoff, and that the 
sluggish British economy is dragging them down. 

They demand more control over their oil. They also seek to supplant 
their depressed steel and shipbuilding industries with new ones based 
on electronics and other advanced industries. Indeed, while Britain is" 
torn with controversy over whether to go ahead with plans for a state- 
backed semiconductor industry, Scotland is already, after California 


Massachusetts, the third largest assembler of integrated cir cuits in the 

Elsewhere hi Britain separatist pressures are evident in Wales, and 
tiny autonomist movements are even surfacing in Cornwall and 
Wessex, where local regionalists demand home rule, their own 
legislative assembly, and a transition out of backward industry into high 

From Belgium (where tension among the Walloons, ihe Flemish and 
the Bruxelloises is rising) to Switzerland (where a split-away group 
recently won a fight for their own canton in the Jura) to West Germany 
(where Sudeten Germans are demanding the right to return to their 
original homeland in nearby Czechoslovakia) to the South Tyrolese in 
Italy, the Slovenes in Austria, the Basques and Catalans in Spain, the 
Croatians in Yugoslavia, and dozens of lesser known groups, all of 
Europe is feeling a relentless buildup of centrifugal pressures. 

On the other side of the Atlantic, Canada's internal crisis over Quebec 
is not yet over. The election of the Quebecois separatist premier, Rene 
Levesque, the flight of capital and business from Montreal, the 
heightened bitterness between French-speaking and English-speaking 
Canadians have created the real possibility of national disintegration. 
Former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, fighting to preserve national 
unity, warned that "if certain centrifugal tendencies fulfill them-selves, 
we will have permitted this country either to break up or to become so 
divided that its existence and its ability to act as one nation will have 
been destroyed." Quebec, moreover, is not the only source of divisive 
pressures. Perhaps equally important, though less well known abroad, 
is the swelling chorus of separatist or autonomist voices in oil-rich 
Alberta. Across the Pacific, nations like Australia and New Zealand 
display similar tendencies. In Perth a mining magnate named Hancock 
has charged that mineral-rich Western Aus-tralia is compelled to pay 
artificially high prices for eastern Australia's manufactured wares. 
Among other things, Western Australia claims that it is politically 
underrepresented in Can berra; that, in a country of vast distances, 
airfares are rigged against her; and that national policies discourage 
foreign in vestment in the West. The gold-lettered sign outside Lang 
Hancock's office reads "Western Australia Secession Move ment." 

Meanwhile New Zealand has its own troubles with break-aways. The 
South Island's hydroelectric power provides much 


sprouted in Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana during the heating-oil 
shortages of the mid-1970's and declared: "Let the Bastards Freeze in 
the Dark." The thinly veiled implication of secession could also be 
found in the wording of an ad placed in The New York Times by the 
state of Louisiana. It urged the reader to "Consider an America without 

Midwesterners today are being advised to stop "chasing smoke- 
stacks," to move to more advanced industry, and to start thinking like 
regionalists, while Northeastern governors are organizing themselves 

to defend that region's interests. The public mood was hinted at in a 
full-page ad placed by a Coalition to Save New York. The ad charged 
that "New York Is Being Raped" by federal policies and that "New 
Yorkers can fight back." 

What does all this belligerent talk around the world, not to mention the 
protests and violence, add up to? The answer is unmistakable: 
potentially explosive internal stresses within the nations spawned by 
the industrial revolution. 

Some of these stresses obviously arise from the energy crisis and the 
need to shift from a Second Wave to a Third Wave energy base. 

Others can be traced to conflicts over the transition from a Second 
Wave to a Third Wave industrial base. In many places we are also 
witnessing, as suggested in Chapter Nineteen, the growth of 
subnational or regional economies that are as large, complex, and 
internally differentiated as national economies were a generation ago. 
These form the economic launching pad for separatist movements or 
drives for autonomy. 

But whether taking the form of open secessionism, of regionalism, 
bilingualism, home-rulism, or decentralism, these centrifugal forces 
also gain support because national governments are unable to 
respond flexibly to the rapid de-massifi -cation of society. 

As the mass society of the industrial era disintegrates under the impact 
of the Third Wave, regional, local, ethnic, social, and religious groups 
grow less uniform. Conditions and needs diverge. Individuals, too, 
discover or reassert their differences. 

Corporations typically meet this problem by introducing more variety 
into their product lines and by a policy of aggressive "market 

National governments, by contrast, find it difficult to custo- 



mize their policies. Locked into Second Wave political and bureaucratic 
structures, they find it impossible to treat each region or city, each 
contending racial, religious, social, sexual, or ethnic group differently, 
let alone to treat each citizen as an individual. As conditions diversify, 
national decision-makers remain ignorant of fast-changing local 
requirements. If they try to identify these highly localized or specialized 
needs, they wind up deluged with overdetailed, indigestible data. 

Pierre Trudeau, caught in the struggle against Canadian se- 
cessionism, put it clearly as early as 1967 when he argued: "You can't 
have an operative, operating system of federal government if one part 
of it, province or state, is in a very important special status, if it has a 
different set of relationships toward the central government than the 
other provinces." 

In consequence, national governments in Washington, London, Paris, 
or Moscow continue, by and large, to impose uniform, standardized 
policies designed for a mass society on increasingly divergent and 
segmented publics. Local and individual needs are forgotten or 
ignored, causing the flames of resentment to reach white heat As de- 
massification progresses, we can expect separatist or centrifugal 
forces to intensify dramatically and threaten the unity of many nation- 

The Third Wave places enormous pressures on the nation-state from 


At the same time, we see equally powerful fingers clawing at the 
nation-state from above. The Third Wave brings new problems, a new 
structure of communications, and new actors on the world stage — all of 
which drastically shrink the power of the individual nation-state. 

Just as many problems are too small or localized for national 
governments to handle effectively, new ones are fast arising that are 
too large for any nation to cope with alone. "The nation state, which 
regards itself as absolutely sovereign, is obviously too small to play a 
real role at the global level," writes the French political thinker, Denis 
de Rouge-n icnt. "No one of our 28 European states can any longer by 
iisclf assure its military defense and its prosperity, its technological 
resources, ... the prevention of nuclear wars and of 



ecological catastrophes." Nor can the United States, the Soviet Union, 
or Japan. 

Tightened economic linkages between nations make it virtually 
impossible for any individual national government today to manage its 
own economy independently or to quarantine inflation. The ever- 
swelling bubble of Euromoney, for example, as suggested earlier, is 
beyond the power of any individual nation to regulate. National 
politicians who claim their domestic policies can "halt inflation" or "wipe 
out unemployment" are either naive or lying, since most economic 
infections are now communicable across national boundaries. The 
economic shell of the nation-state is now increasingly permeable. 

Furthermore, national borders that can no longer contain economic 
flows are even less defensible against environmental forces. If Swiss 
chemical plants dump wastes into the Rhine, the pollution flows 
through Germany, through Holland, and ultimately into the North Sea. 
Neither Holland nor Germany can, by itself, guarantee the quality of its 
own waterways. Oil tanker spills, air pollution, inadvertent weather 
modification, the destruction of forests, and other activities often 
involve side effects that sweep across national borders. Frontiers are 
now porous. 

The new global communications system further opens each nation to 
penetration from the outside. Canadians have long resented the fact 
that some 70 U.S. television stations along the border telecast, 
programs to Canadian audiences. But this Second Wave form of 
cultural penetration is minor compared with that made possible by 
Third Wave communications systems based on satellites, computers, 
teleprinters, interactive cable systems, and dirt cheap ground stations. 

"One way to 'attack' a nation," writes United States Senator George S. 
McGovern, "is to restrain the flow of information — cutting off contact 
between the headquarters and overseas branches of a multinational 
firm . . . building information walls around a nation. ... A new phrase is 
entering the international lexicon — 'infonnation sovereignty.'" 

Yet it is questionable how effectively national borders can be sealed 
off — or for how long. For the shift toward a Third Wave industrial base 
requires the development of a highly ramified, sensitive, wide open 
"neural network" or information system, and attempts by individual 
nations to dam up data flows may interfere with, rather than accelerate, 
their own economic development. Moreover, each technological 


breakthrough provides yet another way to penetrate the nation's outer 

All such developments — the new economic problems, the new 
environmental problems, and the new communications technologies — 
are, converging to undermine the position of the nation-state in the 
global scheme of things. What's more, they come together at precisely 
the moment when potent new actors appear on the world scene to 
challenge national power. 

The best-publicized and most powerful of these new forces is the 
transnational or, more commonly, the multinational corporation. 

What we have seen in the past 25 years is an extraordinary 
globalization of production, based not merely on the export of raw 
materials or finished manufactured goods from one country to another, 
but on the organization of production across national lines. 

The transnational corporation (or TNC) may do research in one 
country, manufacture components in another, assemble them in a 
third, sell the manufactured goods in a fourth, deposit its surplus funds 
in a fifth, and so on. It may have op-crating affiliates in dozens of 
countries. The size, importance, and political power of this new player 
in the global game has skyrocketed since the mid-1950's. Today at 
least 10,000 companies based in the non-communist high-technology 
nations have affiliates outside their own countries. Over 2,000 have 
alliMates in six or more host countries. 

Of 382 major industrial firms with sales over $1 billion, fully 242 had 25 
percent or more "foreign content" measured in terms of sales, assets, 
exports, earnings, or employment. And while economists disagree 
wildly on how to define and evaluate (and therefore classify and count) 

these corpora-lions, it is clear that they represent a crucial new factor 
in the world system — and a challenge to the nation-state. 

To glimpse their scale, it helps to know that on a given day In 1 971 
they held $268 billion hi short-term liquid assets. Tliis, according to the 
International Trade Subcommittee of I ho United States Senate, was 
"more than twice the total of nil international monetary institutions in 
the world on the »»mo date." The total annual U.N. budget, by 
comparison, i« i > resented less than 1/268 or 0.0037 of that amount. 



By the early 1 970's, General Motors' annual s ales revenue was larger 
than the Gross National Product of Belgium or Switzerland. Such 
comparisons led economist Lester Brown, president of the Worldwatch 
Institute, to note A hat "It was once said that the sun never set on the 
British Ennpire. Today the sun does set on the British Empire, but not 
on the scores of global corporate empires including those of IB31, 
Unilever, Volkswagen and Hitachi." 

Exxon alone has a tanker fleet 50 percent larger than that of the Soviet 
Union. The East-West specialist Josef Wilczynski, an economist at the 
Royal Military College of Australia, once whimsically pointed out that in 
1973 "The proceeds from the sales" of only ten of these transnational 
corporations would have been "enough to give the 58,000,000 
members of the Communist Parties in all the 14 Socialist countries a 
six-month holiday at the American standard of 


While typically thought of as a capitalist invention, the fact is that some 
50 "socialist transnationals" operate through the COMECON countries, 
laying pipelines, making chemicals and ball bearings, extracting potash 
and asbestos, and running ship lines. Moreover, socialist banks and 
financial institutions — ranging from the Moscow Narodny Bank to the 
Black Sea and Baltic General Insurance Company — do business in 
Zurich, Vienna, London, Frankfurt, or Paris. Some Marxist theorists 
now regard the "internationalization of production" as necessary and 
"progressive." In addition, of the 500 Western-based, privately owned 
TNCs whose sales in 1973 exceeded $500 million, fully 140 had 
"significant commercial dealings" with one or more of the COMECON 


Nor are the TNCs only based in the rich nations. The 25 countries in 
the Lathi American Economic System recently moved to create 
transnationals of their own in the fields of agri-business, low-cost 
housing, and capital goods. Philippine-based companies are 
developing deepwater ports in the Persian Gulf, and Indian 
transnationals are building electronics plants hi Yugoslavia, steel mills 
in Libya, and a machine tool industry in Algeria. The rise of the TNC 
alters the position of the nation-state on the planet. 

Marxists tend to see national governments as handmaidens of 
corporate power, and therefore stress the commonality of interests 
between the two, yet the TNCs very often have then* 


own interests that run counter to those of their "home" nations, and 
vice versa. 

"British" TNCs have violated British embargos. "American" TNCs have 
violated U.S. regulations concerning the Arab boycott of Jewish firms. 
During the OPEC embargo the transnational oil companies rationed 
deliveries between countries according to their own, not national, 
priorities. National loyalties fade quickly when opportunities present 
themselves elsewhere, so that TNCs transfer jobs from country to 
country, escape environmental rules, and play off host countries 
against one another. 

"For the past few centuries," Lester Brown has written, "the world has 
been neatly divided into a set of independent, sovereign nation-states. 

. . . With the emergence of literally hundreds of multinational or global 
corporations, this organization of the world into mutually exclusive 
political entities is now being overlaid by a network of economic 

In this matrix, the power that once belonged exclusively to the nation- 
state when it was the only major force operating on the world scene is, 
at least in relative terms, sharply reduced. 

Indeed, transnationals have already grown so large that they have 
taken on some of the features of the nation-state itself— including then* 
own corps of quasi-diplomats and their own highly effective intelligence 

"The multinationals' intelligence needs ... are not much different from 
those of the United States, France or any other country. . . . Indeed, 
any discussion of the intelligence battles among the CIA, KGB, and 
their satellite agencies will be incomplete if it doesn't describe the 
increasingly important roles played by the apparats of Exxon, Chase 
Manhattan, Mitsubishi, Lockheed, Phillips and others," writes Jim 
Hougan in Spooks, an analysis of the private intelligence agencies. 

Sometimes cooperating with their "home" nation, sometimes exploiting 
it, sometimes executing its policies, sometimes using it to execute their 
own, the TNCs are neither all good nor all bad. But with their ability to 
shunt billions back and forth instantly across national boundaries, their 
power to deploy technology and to move relatively quickly, they have 
often outflanked and outrun national governments. 

"It is not just, or even mainly, a question of whether international 
companies can circumvent particular regional laws and regulations," 
writes Hugh Stephenson in a study of the 



impact of TNCs on the nation-state. "It is that our whole framework of 
thought and reaction is found in the . . . concept of the sovereign nation 
state [while] international corporations are rendering this notion 

In terms of the global power system, the rise of the great transnationals 
has reduced, rather than strengthened, the role of the nation-state at 
precisely the time when centrifugal pressures from below threaten to 
part it at the seams. 


Though they are the best known, the transnational corporations are not 
the only forces on the global stage. We are witnessing, for example, 
the rise of transnational trade union groupings — the mirror image, as it 
were, of the corporations. We are also seeing a growth of religious, 
cultural, and ethnic movements that flow across national lines and link 
up with one another. We observe an antinuclear movement whose 
demonstrations in Europe draw protesters together from several 
countries at a time. We also are witnessing the emergence of 
transnational political party groupings. Thus Christian Democrats and 
Socialists alike speak of forming themselves into "Europarties" that 
transcend individual national boundaries — a move accelerated by the 
creation of the European Parliament. 

Paralleling these developments, meanwhile, is a rapid proliferation of 
nongovernmental transnational associations. Such groups devote 
themselves to everything from education to ocean exploration, sports 
to science, horticulture to disaster relief. They range from the Oceania 
Football Confederation to the International Red Cross, the International 
Federation of Small and Medium-Sized Commercial Enterprises, and 
the International Federation of Women Lawyers. In aggregate, such 
"umbrella" organizations or federations represent millions of members 
and tens of thousands of branches in many countries. They reflect 
every conceivable shade of political interest or lack of interest 

In 1963 some 1,300 such organizations operated across national lines. 
By the mid-1970's the number had doubled to 2,-600. The total is 
expected to zoom to 3,500 — 4,500 by 1985 — with a new one springing 
up approximately every three days. 

If the United Nations is the "world organization," these 



less visible groups form, in effect, a "second world organization." Their 
aggregate budgets in 1975 amounted to a mere $1.5 billion — but this is 
only a tiny fraction of the resources controlled by their subordinate 
units. They have their own "trade association" — the Brussels-based 
Union of International Associations. They relate to one another 
vertically, with local, regional, national, and other groupings coming 
together under the transnational organization. They also relate 

horizontally through a dense mesh of consortia, working groups ; 
interorganizational committees, and task forces. 

So dense are these transnational ties that, according to a study by the 
Union of International Associations, there were an estimated 52,075 
identifiable, interlocking relationships and cross-linkages among 1,857 
such groups in 1977. And this number is soaring upward, too. Literally 
thousands of transnational meetings, conferences, and symposia bring 
the members of these different groupings into contact with one 

Though still relatively underdeveloped, this fast-growing transnational 
network (or T-Net) adds yet another dimension to the emerging Third 
Wave world system. Even this does not complete the picture, however. 

The nation-state's role is still further diminished as nations themselves 
are forced to create supranational agencies. Nation-states fight to 
retain as much sovereignty and freedom of action as they can. But 
they are being driven, step by step, to accept new constraints on their 

European countries, for example, grudgingly but inevitably have been 
driven to create a Common Market, a European parliament, a 
European monetary system, and specialized agencies like CERN — the 
European Organization for Nuclear Research. Richard Burke, the 
Common Market's tax commissioner, brings pressure to bear on 
member nations to alter their domestic tax policies. Agricultural and 
industrial policies once determined in London or Paris are hammered 
out in Brussels. Members of the European Parliament actually ram 
through an $840-million increase in the EEC budget over the 
objections of their national governments. 

The Common Market is perhaps the prime example of the gravitation 
of power to a supranational agency. But it is not the only example. We 
are, in fact, seeing a population explosion of such inter-governmental 
organizations (or IGOs) — groupings or consortia of three or more 
nations. They range from the World Meteorological Organization and 


the International Atomic Energy Agency to the International Coffee 
Organization or the Latin American Free Trade Association, not to 
mention OPEC. Today such agencies are needed to coordinate global 
transport, communications, patents, and work in dozens of other fields 
from rice to rubber. And the number of such IGOs has also doubled, 
shooting up from 139 in 1960 to 262 in 1977. 

Through these IGOs, the nation-state seeks to cope with larger than 
national problems, while retaining maximum de-cisional control at the 
national level. Bit by bit, however, a steady gravitational shift occurs as 
more decisions are transferred to — or constrained by — these larger 
than national organizational entities. 

From the rise of the transnational corporation to the population 
explosion of transnational associations to the creation of all these 
IGOs, we see a set of developments all moving in the same direction. 

Nations are less and less able to take independent action — they are 
losing much of their sovereignty. 

What we are creating is a new multilayered global game in which not 
merely nations but corporations and trade unions, political, ethnic, and 
cultural groupings, transnational associations and supranational 
agencies are all players. The nation-state, already threatened by 
pressures from below, finds its freedom of action constrained, its 
power displaced or diminished, as a radically new global system takes 


The shrinkage of the nation-state reflects the appearance of a new- 
style global economy that has emerged since the Third Wave began its 
surge. Nation-states were the necessary political containers for nation- 
sized economies. Today the containers have not only sprung leaks, 
they have been made obsolete by their own success. First, there is the 
growth within them of regional economies that have attained a scale 
once associated with national economies. Second, the world economy 
to which they gave rise has exploded in size and is taking on strange 
new forms. 

Thus the new global economy is dominated by the great transnational 
corporations. It is serviced by a ramified banking and financial industry 
that operates at electronic speeds. It breeds money and credit no 
nation can regulate. It moves toward transnational currencies — not a 
single "world 


money” but a variety of currencies or "meta-currencies," each based 
on a "market basket" of national currencies or commodities. It is torn 
by a world-scale conflict between resource suppliers and users. It is 
riddled with shaky debt on a hitherto unimaginable scale. It is a mixed 
economy, with private capitalist and state-socialist enterprises forming 
joint ventures and working side by side. And its ideology is not laissez 
faire or Marxism, but globalism — the idea that nationalism is obsolete. 

Just as the Second Wave created a slice of the population that had 
larger than local interests and became the base for nationalist 
ideologies, so the Third Wave gives rise to groups with larger than 
national interests. These form the base of the emerging globalist 
ideology sometimes called "planetary consciousness." 

This consciousness is shared by multinational executives, long-haired 
environmental campaigners, financiers, revolutionaries, intellectuals, 
poets, and painters, not to mention members of the Trilateral 
Commission. I have even had a famous U.S. four-star general assure 
me that "the nation-state is dead." Globalism presents itself as more 
than an ideology serving the interests of a limited group. Precisely as 
nationalism claimed to speak for the whole nation, globalism claims to 
speak for the whole world. And its appearance is seen as an 

evolutionary necessity — a step closer to a "cosmic consciousness" that 
would embrace the heavens as well. 

In sum, therefore, at every level, from economics and politics to 
organization and ideology, we are witnessing a devastating attack, 
from within and without, on that pillar of Second Wave civilization: the 

At the exact historical moment when many poor countries are 
desperately fighting to establish a national identity because nationhood 
hi the past was necessary for successful industrialization, the rich 
countries, racing beyond industrialism, are diminishing, displacing, or 
derogating the role of the nation. 

We can expect the next decades to be torn by struggle over the 
creation of new global institutions capable of fairly representing the 
prenational as well as the postnational peoples of the world. 



No one today, from the experts in the White House or the Kremlin to 
the proverbial man in the street, can be sure how the new world 
system will shake out — what new kinds of institutions will arise to 
provide regional or global order. But it is possible to dispel several 
popular myths. 

The first of these is the myth propagated by such films as Rollerball 
and Network, in which a steely-eyed villain announces that the world 
is, or will be, divided up and run by a group of transnational 
corporations. In its most common form this myth pictures a single 
worldwide Energy Corporation, a single Food Corporation, a single 
Housing Corporation, a single Recreation Corporation, and so forth. In 
a variant, each of these is seen as a department of an even larger 

This simplistic image is based on straight-line extrapolations from 
Second Wave trends: specialization, maximization, and centralization. 

Not only does this view fail to take into account the fantastic diversity of 
of real life conditions, the A clash of cultures, religions, and traditions in 
the world, the speed of change, and the historic thrust now carrying the 
high-technology nations toward de-massification; not only does it 
naively presuppose that such needs as energy, housing, or food can 
be neatly compartmentalized; it ignores the fundamental changes now 
revolutionizing the structure and purpose of the corporation itself. It is 
based, in short, on an obsolete, Second Wave image of what a 
corporation is and how it is structured. 

The other, closely related fantasy pictures a planet run by a single, 
centralized World Government. This is usually imagined as an 
extension of some existing institution or government — a "United States 
of the World," a "Planetary Proletarian State," or simply the United 
Nations writ large. Again the thinking is based on simplistic extensions 
of Second Wave principles. 

What appears to be emerging is neither a corporation-dominated future 
nor a global government but a far more complex system similar to the 
matrix organizations we saw springing up hi certain advanced 
industries. Rather than one or a few pyramidal global bureaucracies, 
we are weaving nets or matrices that mesh different kinds of 
organizations with common interests. 

We may, for example, see the emergence over the next dec- 


ade of an Oceans Matrix, composed not solely of nation-states but of 
regions, cities, corporations, environmental organizations, scientific 
groups, and others with an interest in the sea. As changes occur new 
groupings would emerge and plug into the matrix, while others would 
drop out. Similar organizational structures may well emerge — are, in 
some sense, already emerging — to deal with other issues: a Space 
Matrix, a Food Matrix, a Transport Matrix, an Energy Matrix, and the 
like, all flowing into and out of one another, overlapping and forming a 
messily open, rather than a neatly closed, system. 

In short, we are moving toward a world system composed of units 
densely interrelated like the neurons in a brain rather than organized 
like the departments of a bureaucracy. 

As this happens, we can expect a tremendous struggle to break out 
within the United Nations over whether that organization shall remain a 
"trade association of nation-states" or whether other types of units — 
regions, perhaps religions, even corporations or ethnic groups — should 
be represented in 


As nations are torn apart and restructured, as JTNCs and other new 
factors move onto the global scene, as instabilities and the threats of 
war erupt, we shall be called upon to invent wholly new political forms 
or "containers" to bring a semblance of order to the world — a world in 
which the nation-state has become, for many purposes, a dangerous 


"Convulsive shudders" . . . "unexpected uprising'* . . . "wild swings" ... 
The headline writers search frantically for terms to describe what they 
perceive as mounting world disorder. The Islamic uprising hi Iran stuns 
them. The sudden reversal of Maoist policies in China, the collapse of 
the dollar, the new militancy of the poor countries, outbreaks of 
rebellion in El Salvador or Afghanistan are all seen as startling, 
random, unconnected events. The world, we are told, is careening 
toward chaos. 

Yet much that appears anarchic is not. The eruption of a new 
civilization on the earth could not but shatter old relationships, 
overthrow regimes, and send the financial system spiraling. What 

seems like chaos is actually a massive realignment of power to 
accommodate the new civilization. 

We will look back on today as the twilight of Second Wave civilization, 
and be saddened by what we see. For as it came to a close, industrial 
civilization left behind a world hi which one quarter of the species lived 
in relative affluence, three quarters in relative poverty — and 

800.000. 000 hi what the World Bank terms "absolute" poverty. Fully 

700.000. 000 people were underfed and 550,000,000 illiterate. An 
estimated 1,200,000,000 human beings remained without access to 
public health facilities or even safe, drinkable water, as the industrial 
age ended. 

It left behind a world hi which some 20 to 30 industrialized nations 
depended on the hidden subsidies of cheap energy and cheap raw 
materials for much of then* economic success. It left a global 
infrastructure — the International 328 


Monetary Fund, GATT, the World Bank, and COMECON — which 
regulated trade and finance for the benefit of the Second Wave 
powers. It left many of the poor countries with one-crop economies 
twisted to serve the needs of the rich. 

The rapid emergence of the Third Wave not only foreshadows the end 
of the Second Wave imperium, it also explodes all our conventional 
ideas about ending poverty on the planet. 


Ever since the late 1940's a single dominant strategy has governed 
most efforts to reduce the gap between the world's rich and poor. I call 
this the Second Wave strategy. 

This approach starts with the premise that Second Wave societies are 
the apex of evolutionary progress and that, to solve their problems, all 
societies must replay the industrial revolution essentially as it 
happened in the West, the Soviet Union, or Japan. Progress consists 
of moving millions of people out of agriculture into mass production. It 
requires urbanization, standardization, and all the rest of the Second 
Wave package. Development, in brief, involves the faithful imitation of 
an already successful model. 

Scores of governments in country after country have, in fact, tried to 
carry out this game plan. A few, like South Korea or Taiwan, where 
special conditions prevail, appear to be succeeding in establishing a 
Second Wave society. But most such efforts have met with disaster. 

These failures in one impoverished country after another have been 
blamed on a mind-bending multiplicity of reasons. Neo-colonialism. 
Bad planning. Corruption. Backward religions. Tribalism. Transnational 
corporations. The CIA. Going too slowly. Going too fast. Yet, whatever 
the reasons, the grim fact remains that industrialization according to 
the Second Wave model has flopped far more frequently than it has 

Iran offers only the most dramatic case in point. 

As late as 1975 a tyrannical Shah boasted he would make Iran into the 
most advanced industrial state in the Middle East by pursuing the 
Second Wave strategy. "The Shah's builders," reported Newsweek, 
"toiled over a glorious array of mills, dams, railroads, highways and all 
the other trimmings 



of a full-fledged industrial revolution." In June 1978 international 
bankers were still scrambling to lend billions at hair-thin interest rates 
to the Persian Gulf Shipbuilding Corporation, to the Mazadern Textile 
Company, to Tavanir, the state-owned power utility, to the steel 
complex at Isfahan and the Iran Aluminium Company, among others. 

While this buildup was supposedly turning Iran into a "modern" nation, 
however, corruption ruled Teheran. Conspicuous consumption 
aggravated the contrast between rich and poor. Foreign interests — 
mainly, but not exclusively, American — had a field day. (A German 
manager in Teheran was paid a third more than he could have earned 
at home, but his employees worked for one tenth a German worker's 
pay-packet.) The urban middle class existed as a tiny island within a 
sea of misery. Apart from oil, fully two thirds of all the goods produced 
for the market were consumed in Teheran by one tenth the country's 
population. In the countryside, where income was barely a fifth of that 
in the city, the rural masses continued to live under revolting and 
repressive conditions. 

Nurtured by the West, attempting to apply the Second Wave strategy, 
the millionaires, generals, and hired technocrats who ran the Teheran 
government conceived of development as a basically economic 
process. Religion, culture, family life, sexual roles — all these would 
take care of themselves if only the dollar signs were got right. Cultural 
authenticity meant little because, steeped in indust-reality, they saw 
the world as increasingly standardized rather than moving toward 
diversity. Resistance to Western ideas was simply dismissed as 
"backward” by a cabinet 90 percent of whose members had been 
educated at Harvard, Berkeley, or European universities. 

Despite certain unique circumstances — like the combustive mixture of 
oil and Islam — much of what happened in Iran was common to other 
countries pursuing the Second Wave strategy. With some variation, 
much the same might be said of dozens of other poverty-stricken 
societies from Asia and Africa to Latin America. 

The collapse of the Shah's regime in Teheran has sparked a 
widespread debate in other capitals from Manila to Mexico City. One 
frequently asked question has to do with the pace of change. Was the 
pace too accelerated? Did the Iranians suffer from future shock? Even 
with oil revenues, can governments create a large enough middle class 
rapidly enough to 



nvoid revolutionary upheaval? But the Iranian tragedy and iln- 
substitution of an equally repressive theocracy for the Shah's regime 
compel us to question the very root premises of the Second Wave 

Is classical industrialization the only path to progress? And does it 
make any sense to imitate the industrial model at a time when 
industrial civilization itself is caught in its terminal agonies? 


So long as the Second Wave nations remained "successful" — stable, 
rich, and getting richer — it was easy to look upon them as a model for 
the rest of the world. By the late 1960's, however, the general crisis of 
industrialism had exploded. 

Strikes, blackouts, breakdowns, crime, and psychological distress 
spread throughout the Second Wave world. Magazines did cover 
pieces on "why nothing works any more." Energy and family systems 
shook. Value systems and urban structures crumbled. Pollution, 
corruption, inflation, alienation, loneliness, racism, bureaucratism, 
divorce, mindless consumerism, all came under savage attack. 
Economists warned of the possibility of a total collapse of the financial 

A global environmental movement, meanwhile, warned that pollution, 
energy, and resource limits might soon make it impossible for even the 
existing Second Wave nations to continue normal operations. Beyond 
this, it was pointed out, even if the Second Wave strategy did, 
miraculously, work in the poor nations, it would turn the entire planet 
into a single giant factory and wreak ecological havoc. 

Gloom descended on the richest nations as the general crisis of 
industrialism deepened. And suddenly millions around the world asked 
themselves not merely if the Second Wave strategy could work but 
why anyone would want to emulate a civilization that was itself in the 
throes of such violent disintegration. 

Another startling development also underminded the belief that the 
Second Wave strategy was the only path from rags to riches. Always 
implicit in this strategy was the assumption that "first you 'develop,' 
then you grow rich" — that affluence 



was the result of hard work, thrift, the Protestant Ethic, and a long 
process of economic and social transformation. 

However, the OPEC embargo and the sudden flood of pet-ro-dollars 
into the Middle East stood this Calvinist notion on its pointed head. 

Within mere months unexpected billions spewed, splashed, and 
spumed into Iran, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Libya, and other Arab 
countries, and the world saw seemingly limitless wealth preceding, 
rather than following, transformation. In the Middle East, it was the 
money that produced the drive to "develop," rather than "development" 
that produced the money. Nothing like that, on so vast a scale, had 
ever happened before. 

Meanwhile, competition among the rich nations themselves was 
heating up. "With South Korean steel being used at California 
construction sites, television sets from Taiwan being marketed in 
Europe, tractors from India being sold hi the Middle East and . . . China 
emerging dramatically as a major potential industrial force, concern is 
mounting over how far developing economies will undercut established 
industries in the advanced nations of Japan, the United States and 
Europe," wrote a Tokyo correspondent for The New York Times. 

Striking French steelworkers, as one might expect, put it more 
colorfully. They called for an end to "the massacre of industry" and 
protesters occupied the Eiffel Tower. In one after another of the older 
industrial nations, Second Wave industries and their political allies 
attacked the "export of jobs" and policies that spread industrialization 
to the poorer countries. 

In short, doubts mushroomed on all sides as to whether the much- 
trumpeted Second Wave strategy could — or even should work. 


Faced by the failures of the Second Wave strategy, rocked by angry 
demands by the poor countries for a total overhaul of the global 
economy, and deeply worried about their own future — the rich nations 
hi the 1970's began to hammer out a new strategy for the poor. 

Almost overnight many governments and "development agencies," 
including the World Bank, the Agency for Interna- 



tional Development, and the Overseas Development Council, switched 
to what can only be called a First Wave strategy. 

This formula is almost a carbon copy reverse of the Second Wave 
strategy: Instead of squeezing the peasants and forcing them into the 
overburdened cities, it calls for a new emphasis on rural development. 
Instead of concentrating on cash crops for export, it urges food self- 
sufficiency. Instead of striving blindly for higher GNP in the hopes that 
benefits will trickle down to the poor, it calls for resources to be 
channeled directly into "basic human needs." 

Instead of pushing for labor-saving technologies, the new approach 
stresses labor-intensive production with low capital, energy, and skill 
requirements. Instead of building giant steel mills or large-scale urban 

factories, it favors decentralized, small-scale facilities designed for the 

Turning Second Wave arguments upside down, the advocates of the 
First Wave strategy were able to show that many industrial 
technologies were a disaster when transferred to a poor country. 
Machines broke down and went unrepaired. They needed high-cost, 
often imported raw materials. Trained labor was in short supply. 

Hence, the new argument ran, what was needed were "appropriate 
technologies." Sometimes called "intermediate," "soft," or "alternative," 
these would lie, as it were, "between the sickle and the combine 

Centers for the development of such technologies soon sprang up all 
over the United States and Europe — the Intermediate Technology 
Development Group founded in 1965 in Britain serving as an early 
model. But the developing countries, too, created such centers and 
began pouring out low-scale technological innovations. 

The Mochudi Farmers Brigade in Botswana, for example, has 
developed an ox- or donkey -drawn device that can be used for 
plowing, planting, and spreading fertilizer in single or double row 
cultivation. The Department of Agriculture in Gambia has adopted a 
Senegalese tool-frame which can be used with a single moldboard 
plow, a groundnut lifter, a seeder, and a ridger. In Ghana work is going 
forward on a pedal-driven rice thresher, a screw press for spent 
brewer's grain, and an all-wood squeezer to extract water from banana 

The First Wave strategy has been applied on a much broader basis as 
well. Thus hi 1978 the new government of India, still reeling from oil 
and fertilizer price hikes and from disappointment with the Second 
Wave strategies followed by 



Nehru and Indira Gandhi, actually banned further expansion of its 
mechanized textile industry and urged increased production of fabrics 
on handlooms instead of power looms. The intent was not merely to 
increase employment but to retard urbanization by favoring rural 
cottage industry. 

There is much about this new formula that admittedly makes excellent 
sense. It confronts the need to slow down the massive migration to the 
cities. It aims to make the villages — where the bulk of the world's poor 
dwell — more livable. It is sensitive to ecological factors. It stresses the 
use of cheap local resources rather than expensive imports. It 
challenges conventional, all-too-narrow definitions of "efficiency." It 
suggests a less technocratic approach to development, taking local 
custom and culture into account. It emphasizes improving the 
conditions of the poor rather than passing capital through the hands of 
the rich in the hopes that some will trickle down. 

Yet after all due credit is given, the First Wave formula remains just 
that — a strategy for ameliorating the worst of First Wave conditions 
without ever transforming them. It is a Band-Aid, not a cure, and it is 
perceived in exactly these terms by many governments around the 

Indonesian President Suharto expressed a widely held view when he 
charged that such a strategy "may be the new form of imperialism. If 
the West contributes only to small-scale grassroots projects, our plight 
may be alleviated somewhat but we will never grow." 

The sudden love affair with labor-intensivity is also subject to the 
charge that it is self-serving for the rich. The longer the poor countries 
remain under First Wave conditions, the fewer competitive goods they 
are likely to shove onto an overloaded world market. The longer they 
stay down on the farm, so to speak, the less oil, gas, and other scarce 
resources they will siphon off, and the weaker and less troublesome 
they will remain politically. 

There is also, built deep into the First Wave stragegy, a paternalistic 
assumption that while other factors of production need to be 
economized, the time and energy of the laborer needn't be — that 
unrelieved backbreaking toil in the fields or rice paddies is fine — so 
long as it is done by somebody else. 

Samir Amin, director of the Institute of African Economic Development 
and Planning, sums up, many of these views, saying that labor- 
intensive techniques have suddenly been 



rendered attractive, "thanks to a medley of hippie ideology, return to 
the myth of the golden age and the noble savage, and criticism of the 
reality of the capitalist world." 

Worse yet, the First Wave formula dangerously de-emphasizes the 
role of advanced science and technology. Many of the technologies 
now being promoted as "appropriate" are even more primitive than 
those available to the American farmer of 1776 — closer by far to the 
sickle than to the harvester. When American and European farmers 
began to employ more "appropriate technology" 150 years ago, when 
they shifted from wooden to steel harrow teeth or to the iron plow, they 
did not turn their back on the world's accumulated knowledge of 
engineering and metallurgy — they seized it. 

At the Paris Exposition of 1855, according to a contemporary account, 
newly-invented threshing machines were dramatically demonstrated. 
"Six men were set to threshing with flails at the same moment that the 
different machines commenced operations, and the following were the 
results of an hour's work: 

"Six threshers with flails 36 liters of wheat 

Belgian threshing machine ' 

150 liters of wheat 

French threshing machine 250 liters of wheat 

English threshing machine 410 liters of wheat 

American threshing machine 740 liters of wheat" 

Only those who have never spent years at grueling manual labor can 
lightly brush aside machinery that, as early as 1855, could thresh grain 
123 times faster than a man. 

Much of what we now call "advanced science" was developed by 
scientists in rich countries to solve the problems of the rich countries. 
Precious little research has been addressed to the everyday problems 
of the world's poor. Nonetheless, any "development policy" that begins 
by blinding itself to the potentials of advanced scientific and 
technological knowledge condemns hundreds of millions of desperate, 
hungry, toiling peasants to perpetual degradation. 

In some places, and at certain times, the First Wave strategy can 
improve life for large numbers of people. Yet there is painfully little 
evidence to show that any sizable country can ever produce enough, 
using premechanized First Wave methods, to invest in change. Indeed, 
a mass of evidence suggests the exact opposite. 

By dint of heroic effort, Mao's China — which invented and 



tried out basic elements of the First Wave formula — almost, but not 
quite, managed to prevent famine. This was a towering achievement. 
But by the late sixties, the Maoist emphasis on rural development and 
backyard industry had gone as far as it could go. China had reached a 
dead end. 

For the First Wave formula, by itself, is ultimately a recipe for 
stagnation and is no more applicable to the entire range of poor 
countries than the Second Wave strategy. 

In a world of exploding diversity we shall have to invent scores of 
innovative strategies and stop looking for models either in the industrial 
present — or in the preindustrial past. It is time we began to look at the 
emergent future. 


Must we remain forever trapped between two obsolete visions? I have 
deliberately caricatured these alternative strategies to sharpen the 
differences. In real life, few governments can afford to follow abstract 
theories, and we find many attempts to combine elements of both 
strategies. Yet the rise of the Third Wave strongly suggests that we no 
longer need to Ping-Pong back and forth between these two formulas. 

For the arrival of the Third Wave drastically alters everything. And 
while no theory emanating from the high-technology world, whether 
capitalist or Marxist in bias, is going to solve the problems of the 
"developing world," and no existing models are wholly transferable, a 
strange new relationship is springing up between First Wave societies 
and the fast-forming Third Wave civilization. 

More than once we have seen naive attempts to "develop" a basically 
First Wave country by imposing on it highly incongruous Second Wave 
forms — mass production, mass media, factory-style education. 
Westminster-style parliamentary government, and the nation-state, to 
name a few — without recognizing that for these to operate 
successfully, traditional family and marriage customs, religion, and role 
structures would all have to be crushed, the entire culture ripped up by 
its roots. 

By astonishing contrast, Third Wave civilization turns out to have many 
features — decentralized production, appropriate scale, renewable 
energy, de-urbanization, work in the home, high levels of presumption, 
to name just a few — that actually 



resemble those found in First Wave societies. We are seeing 
something that looks remarkably like a dialectical return. 

This is why so many of today's most startling innovations arrive with a 
comet's tail of trace memories. It is this eerie sense of deja vu which 
accounts for the fascination with the rural past that we find in the most 
rapidly emergent Third Wave societies. What is so striking today is that 
First and Third Wave civilizations seem likely to have more in common 
with each other than with Second Wave civilization. They are, in short, 

Will this strange congruity make it possible for many of today's First 
Wave countries to take on some of the features of Third Wave 
civilization — without swallowing the whole pill, without totally 
surrendering their culture or first passing through the "stage" of Second 
Wave development? Will it, in fact, be easier for some countries to 
introduce Third Wave structures than to industrialize in the classical 

Is it now possible, moreover, as it was not in the past, for a society to 
attain a high material standard of living without obsessively focusing all 
its energies on production for exchange? Given the wider range of 
options brought by the Third Wave, cannot a people reduce infant 
mortality and improve life span, literacy, nutrition, and the general 
quality of life without surrendering its religion or values and necessarily 
embracing the Western materialism that accompanies the spread of 
Second Wave civilization? 

Tomorrow's "development" strategies will come not from Washington 
or Moscow or Paris or Geneva but from Africa, Asia, and Latin 
America. They will be indigenous, matched to actual local needs. They 

will not overemphasize economics txt the expense of ecology, culture, 
religion, or family structure and the psychological dimensions of 
existence. They will not imitate any outside model. First Wave, Second 
Wave or, lor that matter, Third. 

But the ascent of the Third Wave places all our efforts in a new 
perspective. For it provides the world's poorest nations, as well as the 
richest, with wholly new opportunities. 


The surprising congruence between many of the structural features of 
First Wave and Third Wave civilizations suggests 



that it may be possible in the decades ahead to combine elements of 
past and future into a new and better present. 

Take, for example, the issue of energy. 

With all the talk about an energy crisis in the countries transitioning into 
Third Wave civilization, it is often forgotten that First Wave societies 
are facing an energy crisis of their own. Starting from an extremely low 
base, what kind of energy systems should they create? 

Certainly they need big centralized fossil-fuel-based power plants of 
the Second Wave type. But in many of these societies, as the Indian 
scientist Amulya Kumar N. Reddy has shown, the most urgent need is 
for decentralized energy in the countryside rather than vast, centralized 
supplies for the cities. 

The family of a landless Indian peasant now spends about six hours a 
day merely rinding the firewood it needs for cooking and heating. 
Another four to six hours are spent bringing water from a well, and a 
similar amount to graze cattle, goats, or sheep. "Since such a family 
cannot afford to hire labour and cannot buy labour-saving gadgets, its 
only rational response is to have at least three children to satisfy its 
energy needs," says Reddy, pointing out that rural energy "may prove 
an excellent contraceptive." 

Reddy has studied rural energy needs and concluded that the 
requirements of a village can easily be met by a tiny, cheap bio-gas 
plant that uses human and animal waste from the village itself. He has 
gone on to demonstrate that many thousands of such units would be 
far more useful, ecologically sound, and economical than a few giant, 
centralized generating plants. 

Precisely this reasoning lies behind bio-gas research and installation 
programs hi countries from Bangladesh to Fiji. India already has 
12,000 plants hi operation and has targeted for 100,000 units. China 
plans to have 200,000 family-si/e bio-gas plants at work in Szechuan. 
Korea has 29,450 and hopes to reach a total of 55,000 by 1985. 

Just outside New Delhi, the prominent futurist writer ami businessman, 
Jagdish Kapur, has turned ten arid, miserably unproductive acres into 
a world-renowned model "solar farm" with a bio-gas plant. The farm 
now produces enouph grains, fruits, and vegetables to feed his family 
and employees as well as tons of food to sell at a profit to the m place. 

The Indian Institute of Technology, meanwhile, him 



designed a ten-kilowatt solar plant for village use to provide electricity 
for lighting homes, operating water pumps, and powering community 
television or radio sets. In Madras in Tamil Nadu, the authorities have 
installed a solar-powered desalinization plant. And Central Electronics 
near New Delhi has set up a demonstration home using photovoltaic 
solar cells to produce electricity. 

In Israel molecular biologist Haim Aviv has proposed a joint Egyptian- 
Israeli agro-industrial project in the Sinai. Using Egyptian water and 
Israel's advanced irrigation technology, it would be possible to grow 
cassava or sugar cane, which in turn could be converted into ethanol 
for use in car fuel. His plan calls for sheep and cattle to be fed on the 
sugar cane by-products and for paper plants to make use of the 
cellulose wastes, creating an integrated ecological cycle. Similar 
projects, Aviv suggests, could be built hi parts of Africa, Southeast 
Asia, and Latin America. 

The energy crisis which is part of the breakdown of Second Wave 
civilization is generating many new ideas for both centralized and 
decentralized, large-scale and small-scale energy production in the 
poorer regions of the planet. And there is a clear parallel between 
some of the problems facing First Wave and emergent Third Wave 
societies. Neither can rely on energy systems designed for the Second 
Wave era. 

What about agriculture? Once again, the Third Wave leads us in 
unconventional directions. At the Environmental Research Lab in 
Tucson, Arizona, shrimp are being grown in long troughs in 
greenhouses, right alongside cucumbers and lettuce — with the shrimp 
waste recycled to fertilize the vegetables. In Vermont experimenters 
are raising catfish, trout, and vegetables in a similar manner. The water 
in the fish tank collects solar heat and releases it at night to keep 
temperatures up. Again, the fish waste is used to fertilize the 

In Massachusetts, at the New Alchemy Institute chickens are being 
raised atop the fish tank. Their droppings fertilize algae, which the fish 
then eat. These are only three of countless examples of innovation in 
food production and food processing — many of-which have special, 
exciting relevance for today's First Wave societies. 

A forecast of 20-year trends in world food supply prepared by the 
Center for Futures Research (CFR) at the University of Southern 
California suggests, for example, that several key 



developments are likely to slash, rather than increase, the need for 
artificial fertilizers. According to the CFR study, chances are nine out of 
ten that by 1996 we will have cheap controlled-release fertilizer which 
will reduce the need for nitrogenous fertilizer by 15 percent. There is a 
substantial likelihood that nitrogen-fixing grains will also be available by 
then, further reducing demand. 

The report regards as "virtually certain" new grain varieties which 
produce higher yields per acre on non-irrigated land — with gains as 
high as 25 to 50 percent. It suggests that "trickle-drip” irrigation 
systems, with decentralized wind-powered wells and water distributed 
by draft animals, could substantially increase yields while cutting year- 
to-year fluctuations in the harvest. 

Furthermore, it tells of forage grass that, because it needs only minimal 
water, could double the livestock carrying capacity of arid regions; of a 
potential 30 percent jump in non-grain yields in tropical soils as a result 
of a better understanding of nutrient combinations; of breakthroughs in 
pest control that will cut crop losses drastically; of new low-cost water 
pumping methods; of the control of the tsetse fly, which would open up 
vast new regions to livestock farming; and many other advances. 

On a longer time-scale, one can imagine much of agriculture devoted 
to "energy farms" — the cultivation of crops for energy production. 
Ultimately we may see the convergence of weather modification, 
computers, satellite monitoring, and genetics to revolutionize the 
world's food supply. 

While such possibilities put no food in a hungry peasant's belly today, 
First Wave governments must consider these potentials in their long- 
range agricultural planning, and must search for ways to combine, as it 
were, the hoe and the computer. 

New technologies, associated with the shift to Third Wave civilization, 
also open fresh possibilities. The late futurist John McHale and his wife 
and colleague, Magda Cordell McHale, in their excellent study Basic 
Human Needs, concluded that the emergence of super-advanced 
biotechnologies hold great promise for transforming First Wave 
societies. Such technologies include everything from ocean farming to 
the use of insects and other organisms for productive work, the 
processing of cellulose wastes into meat via microorganisms, and the 
conversion of plants like euphorbia into sul- 



phur-free fuel. "Green medicine" — the manufacture of Pharmaceuticals 
from previously unknown or under-utilized plant life — also holds high 
potential for many First Wave countries. 

Advances in other fields also cast doubt on traditional development 
thinking. An explosive issue facing many First Wave countries is 
massive unemployment and underemployment. This has triggered a 
global debate between First Wave and Second Wave advocates. One 
side argues that mass-production industries do not use enough labor, 
and that the emphasis in development should be placed on smaller- 
scale, more technologically primitive factories that use more people 
and less capital and energy. The other side urges the introduction of 
precisely the Second Wave industries now moving out of the most 
technologically advanced nations — steel, auto, shoes, textiles, and the 

But rushing off to build a Second Wave steel mill may be (he 
equivalent of constructing a buggy -whip factory. There may be 
strategic or other reasons to build a mill but, with wholly new composite 
materials many times stronger, stiffer, :md lighter than aluminum, with 
transparent materials that are as strong as steel, with reinforced plastic 
mortar to replace galvanized water pipes, how long before the demand 
for steel peaks and production capacity is excessive? According to 
Indian scientist M. S. Iyengar, such advances may "make the linear 
expansion in steel and aluminium production redundant." Perhaps, 
instead of seeking loans or foreign investment to build steel capability, 
the poorer countries ought to be preparing now for the "materials age"? 

The Third Wave brings more immediate possibilities as well. Ward 
Morehouse of the Research Policy Program, University of Lund, 
Sweden, argues that the poor nations should be looking beyond First 
Wave small-scale industry or Second Wave centralized, large-scale 
industry, and should focus instead on one of the key industries of the 
emerging Third Wave: microelectronics. 

"Over emphasis on labor-intensive technology with low productivity 
could become a trap for poor countries," More-house writes. Pointing 
out that productivity is rising spectacularly in the computer chip 
industry, he argues that "it is certainly an advantage to capital-poor 
developing countries to get greater output per unit of capital invested." 

More important, however, is the compatibility between Third Wave 
technology and existing social arrangements. 



Thus, Morehouse says, the great product diversity in microelectronics 
means that "developing countries can take a basic technology and 
adapt it more easily to suit their own social requirements or raw 
materials. Microelectronic technology lends itself to decentralization of 

This also means reduced population pressures on the big cities, and 
the rapid miniaturization in this field cuts transportation costs as well. 
Best of all, this form of production has low energy requirements, and 
the growth of the market is so rapid — and the competition so keen — 
that even though rich nations attempt to monopolize these industries 
they are unlikely to succeed. 

Morehouse is not alone in pointing out how the most advanced Third 
Wave industries dovetail with the needs of the poor countries. Says 
Roger Melen, Associate Director of Stanford University's Integrated 
Circuit Laboratory: "The industrial world moved everybody into the 
cities for production, and now we're moving the factories and work 
forces back into the country, but many nations have never really 
switched from a 17th century agrarian economy, including China. It 
now appears they can integrate new manufacturing techniques into 
their society without moving entire populations." 

If this is so, the Third Wave offers a fresh technological strategy for the 
war on want. 

The Third Wave throws the need for transportation and communication 
into a new perspective as well. At the time of the industrial revolution, 
roads were a prerequisite for social, political, and economic 
development. Today an electronic communications system is 
necessary. It was once thought that communications were the 
outgrowth of economic development. Now, says John Magee, 
president of Arthur D. Little, the research firm, this "is an outmoded 
thesis . . . telecommunications is more of a precondition than a 

Today's plummeting cost of communications suggests the substitution 
of communications for many transport functions. It may be far cheaper, 
more energy -conserving, and more appropriate in the long run to lay in 
an advanced communications network than a ramified structure of 
costly roads and streets. Clearly, road transport is needed. But to the 
degree that production is decentralized, rather than centralized, 
transport costs can be minimized without isolating villages 



from one another, from the urban areas, or from the world at large. 

That more and more leaders of First Wave countries are aware of the 
importance of communications is clear from the fight they are waging 
for a redistribution of the world's electronic spectrum. Because the 
Second Wave powers developed telecommunications early, they have 
captured control of the available frequencies. The U.S. and the 
U.S.S.R. alone use up 25 percent of the available shortwave 
broadcasting spectrum, and a bigger chunk of the more sophisticated 
parts of the spectrum. 

This spectrum, however, like the ocean floor and the planet's 
breathable air, belongs — or should belong — to everyone, not just a 
few. Thus many of the First Wave countries insist the spectrum is a 
limited resource and want to be assigned a share of it — even if at the 
moment they lack the equipment to use it. (They assume they can 
"rent out" their part until such time as they are ready to use it 
themselves.) Facing resistance from both the U.S. and the U.S.S.R., 
they call for a "New World Information Order." 

The larger issue they face, however, is internal: how to divide their 
limited resources between telecommunications and transport. It is the 
same question that the most technically sophisticated of nations also 
must confront. Given low-cost ground stations, computerized kibbutz- 
size irrigation systems, perhaps even ground sensing devices, and 
super-cheap computer terminals for village use and cottage industry, it 
may be possible for First Wave societies to avoid some of the 
enormous expenditure for heavy transport that the Second Wave 
nations had to bear. Such ideas no doubt sound Utopian today. But the 
time will soon be on us when they are commonplace. 

Not long ago, Indonesian President Suharto pressed the tip of a 
traditional sword against an electronic push button and thereby 
inaugurated a satellite communications system aimed at linking the 
parts of the Indonesian archipelago together — much as the railroads 
with their golden spike linked the two coasts of America a century ago. 
In so doing, he symbolized the new options that the Third Wave 
presents to countries seeking transformation. 

Developments like these in energy, agriculture, technology, and 
communications suggests something even deeper — whole 



new societies based on the fusion of past and future, of First Wave and 
Third Wave. 

One can begin to picture a transformation strategy based on the 
development of both low-stream, village-oriented, capital-cheap, rural 
industries and certain carefully selected, high-stream technologies, 
with an economy zoned to protect or promote both. 

Jagdish Kapur has written: "A new balance has now to be struck 
between" the most advanced science and technology available to the 
human race and "the Gandhian vision of the idyllic green pastures, the 
village republics." Such a practical combination, Kapur declares, 
requires a "total transformation of the society, its symbols and values, 
its system of education, its incentives, the flow of its energy resources, 
its scientific and industrial research and a whole lot of other 

Yet an increasing number of long-range thinkers, social analysts, 
scholars, and scientists believe that just such a transformation is now 
under way, carrying us toward a radical new synthesis: Gandhi, in 
short, with satellites. 


Implied in this approach is another synthesis at an even deeper level. 
This involves the entire economic relationship of people to the 
market — irrespective of whether that market is capitalist or socialist in 
form. It forces us to question how much of any individual's total time 
and labor should be devoted to production and how much to 

prosumption — i.e., how much to working for pay in the marketplace as 
against working for self. 

Most First Wave populations have already been drawn into the money 
system. They have been "marketized." But while the wretched money 
income earned by the world's poorest people may be vital to their 
survival, production for exchange provides only part of their income; 
prosumption provides the rest. 

The Third Wave encourages us to look at this situation, too, in a fresh 
way. In country after country millions are jobless. But is full 
employment in these societies a realistic goal? What combination of 
policies can possibly, within our lifetime, provide full-time jobs for all 
these surging millions? Is the very notion of "unemployment" itself a 
Second Wave 


concept, as hinted at by the Swedish economist Gunnar Myr-dal? 

The problem, writes Paul Streeten of the World Bank, is "not 
'unemployment,' which is a Western concept that presupposes modern 
sector wage employment, labor markets, labor exchanges and scoial 
security payments. . . . The problem [is] rather, unremunerative, 
unproductive work of the poor, particularly of the rural poor." The 
remarkable rise of the prosumer in the affluent nations today, a striking 
phenomenon of the Third Wave, leads us to question the deepest 
assumptions and goals of most Second Wave economists. 

Perhaps it is a mistake to emulate the industrial revolution in the West, 
which saw the transfer of most economic activity out of Sector A (the 
prosumer sector) and into Sector B (the market sector). 

Perhaps presumption needs to be seen as a positive force, rather than 
a regrettable holdover from the past. 

Perhaps what is needed for most people is part-time employment for 
wages (possibly with some transfer payments) plus imaginative new 
policies aimed at making their pro-sumption more "productive." Indeed, 
linking these two economic activities more intelligently to one another 
may be the missing key to survival for millions. 

Practically speaking, this might mean providing "capital tools for 
presumption"— just as the rich countries now do. In the affluent 
countries we see a fascinating synergy springing up between the two 
sectors, with the marketplace providing powerful capital tools for use 
by the prosumer: everything from washing machines to handdrills to 
battery testers. Misery in the. poor countries is often so extreme that to 
speak of washing machines or power tools seems, at first glance, 
wildly out of place. Yet is there no analogue here for societies moving 
beyond First Wave civilization? 

The French architect-planner Yona Friedman reminds us that the 
world's poor do not necessarily want jobs — they want "food and a roof." 

The job is only a means to this end. But one can often grow one's own 
food and build one's own roof, or at least contribute to that process. 
Thus in a paper for UNESCO, Friedman has argued that governments 
should encourage what I have called presumption by relaxing certain 
land laws and building codes. These make it hard (often, indeed, 
impossible) for squatters to build or improve their own housing. 



He strongly urges governments to remove these ohstacles and to help 
people supply their own housing, offering them "assistance in 
organization, the provision of some materials otherwise difficult to 
obtain . . . and, if possible, site development" — i.e., water or electricity. 
What Friedman and others are beginning to say is that anything that 
helps the individual presume more effectively may be just as important 
as production measured in conventional GNP terms. 

To increase the "productivity" of the prosumer, governments need to 
focus scientific and technological research on presumption. But even 
now they could, at remarkably low cost, provide simple hand tools, 
community workshops, trained craftsmen or teachers, limited 
communications facilities and, where possible, power generation 
equipment — plus favorable propaganda or moral support for those who 
invest "sweat equity" hi building their own homes or improving their bits 
of land. 

Second Wave propaganda today unfortunately conveys to even the 
world's most remote and poorest people the idea that the things they 
make themselves are inherently inferior to the worst mass-produced 
junk. Rather than teaching people to despise their own efforts, to value 
Second Wave products and downgrade what they themselves create, 
governments should be offering prizes for the best or most imaginative 
self-built homes and goods, the most "productive" presumption. The 
knowledge that even the world's richest people are increasingly 
presuming may help change attitudes among the very poorest. For the 
Third Wave casts into a dramatic new light the entire relationship of 
market to nonmarket activities in all the societies of the future. 

The Third Wave also raises non-economic and non-technological 
concerns to primary importance. It makes us look at education, for 
example, with fresh eyes. Education, everyone agrees, is central to 
development. But what kind of education? 

When the colonial powers introduced formal education into Africa, 

India, and other parts of the First Wave world, they transplanted either 
factory-style schools or set up miniature, tenth-rate imitations of their 
own elite schools. Today Second Wave education models are being 
questioned everywhere. The Third Wave challenges the Second Wave 
notion that education necessarily takes place in a classroom. Today 
we need to combine learning with work, political struggle, 



community service, and even play. All our conventional assumptions 
about education need to be re-examined both in the rich countries and 
the poor. 

Is literacy, for example, an appropriate goal? If so, what does literacy 
mean? Does it mean both reading and writing? In a provocative paper 
for the Nevis Institute, a futures research center in Edinburgh, the 
eminent anthropologist Sir Edmund Leach has argued that reading is 
easier to learn and more useful than writing, and that not everyone 
needs to learn to write. Marshall McLuhan has spoken of a return to an 
oral culture more in keeping with many First Wave com* munities. 
Speech recognition technology opens incredible new vistas. New, 
extremely cheap communications "buttons" or tiny tape recorders built 
into simple agricultural equipment may ultimately be able to give oral 
instructions to illiterate farmers. In the light of these, even the definition 
of functional literacy requires fresh thinking. 

Finally, the Third Wave encourages us to look behind conventional 
Second Wave assumptions with respect to motivation as well. Better 
nutrition is likely to raise the entire level of intelligence and functional 
competence among millions of children — at the same time that it 
increases drive and motivation. 

Second Wave people often speak of the passivity and lack of 
motivation of, say, an Indian villager or a Colombian peasant. Leaving 
aside the demotivating effects of malnutrition, intestinal parasites, 
climate, and oppressive political control, might not a part of what 
seems like lack of motivation be an unwillingness to tear up one's 
home, family, and life in the present in return for the dubious hope of a 
better life many years down the road? So long as "development" 
means the superimposition of a totally alien culture on an existing one, 
and so long as actual improvements seem impossibly beyond reach, 
there is every reason to hang on to the little one has. 

Because many features of Third Wave civilization are consonant with 
those of First Wave civilization, whether in China or Iran, they imply the 
possibility of change with less, not more, disruption, pain, and future 
shock. And they therefore may strike at the roots of what we have 
called demotiva-tion. 

And so, not merely in the fields of energy or technology, agriculture or 
economics, but in the very brain and behavior 


of the individual, the Third Wave brings the potential for revolutionary 


The emerging Third Wave civilization does not provide a ready-made 
model for emulation. Third Wave civilization is itself not yet fully 
formed. But for the poor as well as the rich it opens novel, perhaps 
liberating, possibilities. For it calls attention not to the weaknesses, 
poverty, and misery of the First Wave world, but to some of its inherent 

strengths. The very features of this ancient civilization that seem so 
backward from the standpoint of the Second Wave appear as 
potentially advantageous when measured against the template of the 
advancing Third Wave. 

The congruity of these two civilizations must, in the years ahead, 
transform the way we think about the relations between rich and poor 
on the planet. Samir Amin, the economist, speaks of the "absolute 
necessity" of breaking out of the "false dilemma: modern techniques 
copied from the West of today, or old techniques corresponding to 
conditions in the West a century ago." This is precisely what the Third 
Wave makes possible. 

The poor as well as the rich are crouched at the starting line of a new 
and startlingly different race into the future. 


We are no longer where we stood a decade ago, dazzled by changes 
whose relationships to one another were unknown. Today, behind the 
confusion of change, there is a growing coherence of pattern: the 
future is taking shape. 

In a great historical confluence, many raging rivers of change are 
running together to form an oceanic Third Wave of change that is 
gaining momentum with every passing hour. 

This Third Wave of historical change represents not a straight-line 
extension of industrial society but a radical shift of direction, often a 
negation, of what went before. It adds up to nothing less than a 
complete transformation at least as revolutionary in our day as 
industrial civilization was 300 years ago. 

Furthermore, what is happening is not just a technological revolution 
but the coming of a whole new civilization in the fullest s,ense of that 
term. Thus, if we briefly look back over the ground we have covered, 
we find profound and frequently parallel changes at many levels 

Every civilization operates in and on the biosphere, and reflects or 
alters the mix of populations and resources. Every civilization has a 
characteristic techno-sphere — an energy base linked to a production 
system which in turn is linked to a distribution system. Every civilization 
has a socio-sphere consisting of interrelated social institutions. Every 
civilization has an info-sphere — channels of communication through 
which necessary information flows. Every civilization has its own 




Every civilization, in addition, has a set of characteristic relationships 
with the outside world — exploitative, symbioiu. militant or pacific. And 
every civilization has its own super-ideology — a kit of powerful cultural 
assumptions that structure its view of reality and justify its operations. 

The Third Wave, it should now be apparent, is bringing revolutionary 
and self-reinforcing changes at all these dillci ent levels at once. The 
consequence is not merely the disintegration of the old society but the 
creation of foundations for the new. 

Often, as Second Wave institutions crash about our heads, as crime 
mounts, as nuclear families fracture, as once reliable bureaucracies 
sputter and malfunction, as health delivery systems crack and 
industrial economies wobble dangerously, we see only the decay and 
breakdown around us. Yet social decay is the compost bed of the new 
civilization. In energy, technology, family structure, culture, and many 
other fields, we are laying into place the basic structures that will define 
the main features of that new civilization. 

In fact, we can now for the first time identify these main features and 
even, to some extent, the interrelationships among them. 
Encouragingly, the embryonic Third Wave civilization we find is not 
only coherent and workable in both ecological and economic terms, 
but — if we put our minds to it — could be made more decent and 
democratic than our own. 

In no way is this to suggest inevitability. The period of transition will be 
marked by extreme social disruption, as well as wild economic swings, 
sectional clashes, secession attempts, technological upsets or 
disasters, political turbulence, violence, wars, and threats of war. In a 
climate of disintegrating institutions and values, authoritarian 
demagogues and movements will arise to seek, and possibly attain, 
power. No intelligent person can be smug about the outcome. The 
clash of two civilizations presents titanic dangers. 

Yet the odds lie not with destruction but with ultimate survival. And it is 
important to know where the main thrust of change is taking us — what 
kind of world is likely if we manage to avoid the worst of the short-term 
perils that lie before us. Briefly then, what kind of society is taking 


Third Wave civilization, unlike its predecessor, must (and will) draw on 
an amazing variety of energy sources — hydro-pen, solar, geothermal, 
tidal, biomass, lightning discharges, ul-nmately perhaps advanced 
fusion power, as well as other mergy sources not yet imagined in the 
1980's. (While some nuclear plants will no doubt continue to operate, 
even if we NiilFcr a succession of disasters worse than Three Mile 
Island, nuclear will, on the whole, turn out to have been a costly and 
dangerous digression.) 

The transition to the new diverse energy base will be er-rntic in the 
extreme, with a staccato succession of gluts, short-nj-ics, and lunatic 

price swings. But the long-term direction *a i ins clear enough — a shift 
from a civilization based heavily on a single source of energy to one 
based more securely on many. Ultimately we see a civilization founded 
once more on Nc-lf-sustaining, renewable rather than exhaustible 
energy lources. 

Third Wave civilization will rely on a far more diversified technological 
base as well, springing from biology, genetics, electronics, materials 
science, as well as on outer space and iinder-the-sea operations. 

While some new technologies will require high energy inputs, much 
Third Wave technology will In- designed to use less, not more, energy. 
Nor will Third Wave technologies be as massive and ecologically 
dangerous as those of the past. Many will be small in scale, simple to 
operate, with the wastes of one industry predesigned for recycling into 
primary materials for another. 

For Third Wave civilization, the most basic raw material of all — and one 
that can never be exhausted — is information, Including imagination. 
Through imagination and information, Nlinstitutes will be found for 
many of today's exhaustible resources — although this substitution, 
once more, will all too frequently be accompanied by drastic economic 
swings and lurches. 

With information becoming more important than ever before, the new 
civilization will restructure education, redefine scientific research and, 
above all, reorganize the media of communication. Today's mass 
media, both print and electronic, are wholly inadequate to cope with 
the communications load and to provide the requisite cultural variety 
for survival. Instead of being culturally dominated by a few mass 
media, Third Wave civilization will rest on inter-active, de- 



massified media, feeding extremely diverse and often highly 
personalized imagery into and out of the mind-stream of the society. 

Looking far ahead, television will give way to "indi-video" — narrow- 
casting carried to the ultimate: images addressed to a single individual 
at a time. We may also eventually use drugs, direct brain-to-brain 
communication, and other forms of electrochemical communication 
only vaguely hinted at until now. All of which will raise startling, though 
not insoluble, political and moral problems. 

The giant centralized computer with its whirring tapes and complex 
cooling systems — where it still exists — will be supplemented by myriad 
chips of intelligence, embedded in one form or another in every home, 
hospital, and hotel, every vehicle and appliance, virtually every 
building-brick. The electronic environment will literally converse with 

Despite popular misconceptions, this shift toward an information- 
based, highly electronic society will still further reduce our need for 
high-cost energy. 

Nor must this computerization (or, more properly, in- 
formationaliza]tion) of society mean a further depersonaliza-tion of 
human relationships. As we shall see in the next chapter, people will 
still hurt, cry, laugh, take pleasure in each other, and play — but they 
will do all these in a much altered context. 

The fusion of Third Wave energy forms, technologies, and information 
media will speed revolutionary changes in the way we work. Factories 
are still being built (and in some parts of the world they will continue to 
be built for decades to come), but the Third Wave factory already 
bears little resemblance to those we have known until now, and — in the 
rich nations — the number of people in factory jobs will continue to 

In Third Wave civilization the factory will no longer serve as a model for 
other types of institutions. Nor will its primary function be that of mass 
production. Even now the Third Wave factory produces de-massified — 
often customized — end products. It relies on advanced methods such 
as wholistic or "presto" production. It will ultimately use less energy, 
waste less raw material, employ fewer components, and demand far 
more design intelligence. Most significantly, many of its machines will 
be directly activated not by workers but at a distance, by consumers 

Those who do work in Third Wave factories will perform 



far less brutalizing or repetitive work than those still trapped in Second 
Wave jobs. They will not be paced by mechanical conveyor belts. 

Noise levels will be low. Workers will come and go at hours convenient 
for them. The actual workplace will be far more humane and 
individualized, often with flowers and greenery sharing the space with 
machines. Within fixed limits, payment and fringe benefit packages will 
be increasingly tailored to individual preference. 

Third Wave factories will increasingly be found outside the giant urban 
metropolises. They are also likely to be much smaller than those of the 
past, with smaller organizational units as well, each enjoying a greater 
degree of self-management. 

Similarly, the Third Wave office will no longer resemble the office of 
today. A key ingredient of office work — paper — will be substantially 
(though not wholly) replaced. The chattering banks of typewriters will 
fall silent. The file cabinets will shrink away. The role of the secretary 
will be transfigured as electronics eliminates many old tasks and opens 
new opportunities. The sequential movement of papers back and forth 
across many desks, the endlessly repetitious typing of columns of 
numbers — all this will become less important and the making of 
discretionary decisions more important, and more widely shared. 

To operate these factories and offices of the future, Third Wave 
companies will need workers capable of discretion and 
resourcefulness rather than rote responses. To prepare such 

employees, schools will increasingly shift away from present methods 
still largely geared to producing Second Wave workers for highly 
repetitive work. 

The most striking change in Third Wave civilization, however, will 
probably be the shift of work from both office and factory back into the 

Not all jobs can, will, or should be carried out in people's homes. But 
as low-cost communications are substituted for high-cost 
transportation, as we increase the role of intelligence and imagination 
in production, further reducing the role of brute force or routine mental 
labor, a significant slice of the work force in Third Wave societies will 
perform at least part of its work at home, factories remaining only for 
those who must actually handle physical materials. 

This gives us a clue to the institutional structure of Third Wave 
civilization. Some scholars have suggested that, with I he increasing 
importance of information, the university will 



replace the factory as the central institution of tomorrow. This notion, 
however, which comes almost exclusively from academics, is based on 
the provincial assumption that only the university can, or does, house 
theoretical knowledge. It is little more than a professorial wish- 
fulfillment fantasy. 

Multinational executives, for their part, see the executive suite as the 
pivot of tomorrow. The new profession of "information managers" 
pictures their computer rooms as the center of the new civilization. 
Scientists look to the industrial research laboratory. A few remaining 
hippies dream of restoring the agricultural commune to the center of a 
neo-medieval future. Others may nominate the "gratification chambers" 
of a leisure-drenched society. 

My own nomination, for reasons outlined earlier, is none of these. It is, 
in fact, the home. 

I believe the home will assume a startling new importance in Third 
Wave civilization. The rise of the prosumer, the spread of the electronic 
cottage, the invention of new organizational structures in business, the 
automation and de-massifi -cation of production, all point to the home's 
re-emergence as a central unit in the society of tomorrow — a unit with 
enhanced rather than diminished economic, medical, educational, and 
social functions. 

Yet it is unlikely that any institution — not even the home — will play as 
central a role as the cathedral or the factory did in the past. For the 
society is likely to be built around a network rather than a hierarchy of 
new institutions. 

This suggests also that the corporations (and the socialist production 
organizations) of tomorrow will no longer tower over other social 

institutions. In Third Wave societies, corporations will be recognized as 
the complex organizations they are, and will pursue multiple goals 
simultaneously — not just profit or production quotas. Instead of 
focusing on a single bottom line, as many of today's managers have 
been trained to do, the shrewd Third Wave manager will watch over 
(and will be held personally responsible for) multiple "bottom lines." 

Executive paychecks and bonuses will gradually come to reflect this 
new multi-functionality, as the corporation, either through voluntary 
means or because it is compelled to, becomes more responsive to 
what today are regarded as non-economic and hence largely irrelevant 
factors — ecological, political, social, cultural, and moral. 

Second Wave conceptions of efficiency — usually based on 



the ability of the corporation to foist its indirect costs off on the 
consumer or the taxpayer — will be recast to take account of hidden 
social, economic, and other costs which often, indeed, translate into 
deferred economic costs as well. "Econo-think" — a characteristic 
deformation of the Second Wave manager — will be less common. 

The corporation — like most other organizations — will also undergo 
drastic restructuring as the ground rules of Third Wave civilization 
come into play. Instead of a society synchronized to the tempo of the 
assembly line, a Third Wave society will move to flexible rhythms and 
schedules. Instead of the mass society's extreme standardization of 
behavior, ideas, language, and life-styles, Third Wave society will be 
built on segmentation and diversity. Instead of a society that 
concentrates population, energy flows, and other features of life, Third 
Wave society will disperse and de-concentrate. Instead of opting for 
maximum scale on the "bigger is better" principle, Third Wave society 
will understand the meaning of "appropriate s«ale." Instead of a highly 
centralized society, Third Wave society will recognize the value of 
much decentralized decision-making. 

Such changes imply a striking shift away from standard old-fashioned 
bureaucracy, and the emergence in business, government, the 
schools, and other institutions of a wide variety of new-style 
organizations. Where hierarchies remain they will tend to be flatter and 
more transient. Many new organizations will do away with the old 
insistence on "one man, one boss" — all of which suggests a work world 
in which more people share temporary decisional power. 

All the societies moving through the transition to the Third Wave -face 
deepening short-term unemployment problems. From the 1950's on, 
vast increases in white-collar and service work absorbed millions of 
workers laid off by the shrinking manufacturing sector. Today, as 
white-collar work is in its turn automated, there is serious question as 
to whether further expansion of the conventional service sector can 
take up the slack. Some countries mask the problem through feather- 
bedding, enlarging public and private bureaucracies, exporting excess 

workers, and the like. But the problem remains insoluble within the 
framework of Second Wave economies. 

This helps explain the significance of the coming fusion of producer 
and consumer — what I have called the rise of the prosumer. Third 
Wave civilization brings with it the re-emergence of a huge economic 
sector based on production 



for use rather than for exchange, a sector based on do-it-for-yourself 
rather than do-it-for-the-market. This dramatic turnabout, after 300 
years of "marketization," will both demand and make possible radically 
fresh thinking about all our economic problems, from unemployment 
and welfare to leisure and the role of work. 

It will also bring with it a changed appreciation of the role of 
"housework" in the economy, and subsequent fundamental changes in 
the role of women, who still comprise the vast majority of 
houseworkers. The powerful surge of marketization across the earth is 
cresting, with many as yet unimaginable consequences for future 

Third Wave people, meanwhile, will adopt new assumptions about 
nature, progress, evolution, time, space, matter, and causation. Their 
thinking will be less influenced by analogies based on the machine, 
more shaped by concepts like process, feedback, and disequilibrium. 
They will be more aware of the discontinuities that flow directly out of 

A host of new religions, new conceptions of science, new images of 
human nature, new forms of art will arise — in far richer diversity than 
was possible or necessary during the industrial age. The emerging 
multiculture will be torn by turmoil until new forms of group conflict 
resolution are developed (present-day legal systems are unimaginative 
and woefully inadequate for a high diversity society). 

The increasing differentiation of society will also mean a reduced role 
for the nation-state — until now a major force for standardization. Third 
Wave civilization will be based on a new distribution of power in which 
the nation, as such, is no longer as influential as it once was, while 
other institutions — from the transnational corporation to the 
autonomous neighborhood or even city-state — assume greater 

Regions will gain greater power as national markets and economies 
fracture into pieces, some of which are already larger than the national 
markets and economies of the past. New alliances may spring up 
based less on geographical nearness than on common cultural, 
ecological, religious, or economic affinities, so that a region in North 
America may develop closer ties with a region in Europe or Japan than 
with its own next-door neighbor or — eventually — its own national 
government. Tying this all together will be not a unitary world 
government but a dense network of new transnational organizations. 



Outside the rich nations, the non-industrial three quarters <>! humanity 
will struggle against poverty with new tools, no i.'iij-er blindly attempting 
to imitate Second Wave society nor Mitislied with First Wave 
conditions. Radical new "development strategies" will arise, reflecting 
the special religious or. ml rural character of each region and 
consciously geared to minimizing future shock. 

No longer ruthlessly tearing up their own religious traditions, family 
structure, and social life in the hope of creating H mirror image of 
industrial Britain, Germany, the U.S. or, lor that matter, the U.S.S.R., 
many countries will attempt to build on their past, noting the 
congruence between certain i>.ilures of First Wave society and those 
only now re-rmcrging (on a high-technology basis) in the Third Wave 


What we see here are the outlines, therefore, of a wholly new way of 
life, affecting not only individuals but the planet MS well. The new 
civilization sketched here can hardly be termed a Utopia. It will be 
agitated by deep problems, some of which we will explore in the 
remaining pages. Problems of iclf and community. Political problems. 
Problems of justice, equity, and morality. Problems with the new 
economy (and especially the relationship between employment, 
welfare, and prosumption). All these and many more will arouse 
fighting passions. 

But Third Wave civilization is also no "anti-utopia." It is not 1984 writ 
large or Brave New World brought to life. Moth these brilliant books — 
and hundreds of derivative defence fiction stories — paint a future 
based on highly central-l/.i-d, bureaucratized, and standardized 
societies, in which individual differences are eradicated. We are now 
heading in exactly the opposite direction. 

While the Third Wave carries with it deep challenges for humanity, 
from ecological threats to the danger of nuclear terrorism and 
electronic fascism, it is not simply a nightmarish linear extension of 

We glimpse here instead the emergence of what might be mlled a 
"practopia" — neither the best nor the worst of all possible worlds, but 
one that is both practical and preferable to the one we had. Unlike a 
Utopia, a practopia is not free of 



disease, political nastiness, and bad manners. Unlike most Utopias, it 
is not static or frozen in unreal perfection. Nor is it reversionary, 
modeling itself on some imagined ideal of the past. 

Conversely, a practopia does not embody the crystalized evil of a 
Utopia turned inside out. It is not ruthlessly antidemocratic. It is not 
inherently militarist. It does not reduce its citizens to faceless 
uniformity. It does not destroy its neighbors and degrade its 

In short, a practopia offers a positive, even a revolutionary alternative, 
yet lies within the range of the realistically attainable. 

Third Wave civilization, in this sense, is precisely that: a practopian 
future. One can glimpse in it a civilization that makes allowance for 
individual difference, and embraces (rather than suppresses) racial, 
regional, religious, and sub-cultural variety. A civilization built in 
considerable measure around the home. A civilization that is not frozen 
hi amber but pulsing with innovation, yet which is also capable of 
providing enclaves of relative stability for those who need or want 
them. A civilization no longer required to pour its best energies into 
marketization. A civilization capable of directing great passion into art. 
A civilization facing unprecedented historical choices — about genetics 
and evolution, to choose a single example — and inventing new ethical 
or moral standards to deal with such complex issues. A civilization, 
finally, that is at least potentially democratic and humane, hi better 
balance with the biosphere and no longer dangerously dependent on 
exploitative subsidies from the rest of the world. Hard work to achieve, 
but not impossible. 

Flowing together in grand confluence, today's changes thus point to a 
workable countercivilization, an alternative to the increasingly obsolete 
and unworkable industrial system. 

They point, in a word, to practopia. 


Why is this happening? Why is the old Second Wave suddenly 
unworkable? Why is this new civilizational tide rushing in to collide with 
the old? 

Nobody knows. Even today, 300 long years after the fact, historians 
cannot pin down the "cause" of the industrial revolution. As we have 
seen, each academic guild or philosophical 


Nchool has its own preferred explanation. The technological 
»lc(crminists point to the steam engine, the ecologists to the 
destruction of Britain's forests, the economists to fluctuations in the 
price of wool. Others emphasize religious or cultural changes, the 
Reformation, the Enlightenment, and so on. 

In today's world, too, we can identify many mutually causal forces. 
Experts point to the rising demand for exhaustible supplies of 
petroleum, and mushrooming growth of world population, or the 
escalated threat of global pollution as key forces for structural change 
on a planetary scale. Others point to the incredible advances in 

science and technology since the end of World War II and to the social 
and political changes trailing in their wake. Still others emphasize the 
awakening of the non-industrial world and the ensuing political 
upheavals that threaten our life lines of cheap energy and raw 

One can cite striking value changes — the sexual revolution, the youth 
upheaval of the 1960's, the swiftly shifting attitudes toward work. One 
might single out the arms race which has greatly accelerated certain 
types of technological change. Alternatively, one might look for the 
cause of the Third Wave in the cultural and epistemological changes of 
our time — perhaps as profound as those wrought by the Reformation 
and Enlightenment combined. 

We could, in short, find scores, even hundreds of streams of change 
feeding into the grand confluence, all of them interrelated in mutually 
causal ways. We could find amazing positive feedback loops in the 
social system, vastly accelerating and amplifying certain changes, as 
well as negative loops that suppress other changes. We could find, in 
this period of turbulence, analogies to the grand "leap'' described by 
scientists like Ilya Prigogine, by which a simpler structure, in part by 
chance, suddenly breaks through to a wholly new level of complexity 
and diversity. 

What we cannot find is "the" cause of the Third Wave hi the sense of a 
single independent variable or link that pulls the chain. Indeed, to ask 
what "the" cause is may be the wrong way of phrasing the question or 
even the wrong question altogether. "What is the cause of the Third 
Wave?" may be a Second Wave question. 

To say this is not to discount causation but to recognize its complexity. 
Nor does it suggest historical inevitability. Second Wave civilization 
may be shattered and unworkable, but that does not mean that the 
Third Wave civilization pictured here 



must necessarily take form. Any number of forces could radically 
change the outlook. War, economic collapse, ecological catastrophe 
come immediately to mind. While no one can stop the latest historical 
wave of change, necessity and chance are both at work. This, 
however, does not mean we cannot influence its course. If what I have 
said about positive feedback is correct, often a little "kick" to the 
system can bring about large-scale changes. 

The decisions we take today, as individuals, groups, or governments, 
can deflect, divert, or channel the racing currents of change. Each 
people will react differently to the challenges posed by the super- 
struggle that pits advocates of the Second Wave against those of the 
Third. Russians will respond one way, Americans another, Japanese, 
Germans, French, or Norwegians in still other ways, and countries are 
likely to grow more different from one another rather than more alike. 

Within countries the same is true. Little changes can trigger large 
consequences — in corporations, schools, churches, hospitals, and 
neighborhoods. And this is why, despite everything, people — even 
individuals — still count. 

This is especially true because the changes that lie ahead are the 
consequences of conflict, not automatic progression. Thus in every 
one of the technologically advanced nations, backward regions 
struggle to complete then- industrialization. They attempt to protect 
then' Second Wave factories and the jobs based on them. This places 
them in frontal conflict with regions that are already far advanced in 
building the technological base for Third Wave operations. Such 
battles tear society apart, but they also open many opportunities for 
effective political and social action. 

The super-struggle now being waged hi every community between the 
people of the Second Wave and the people of the Third Wave does not 
mean that other struggles lose their importance. Class conflict, racial 
conflict, the conflict of young and old against what I have elsewhere 
called "the imperialism of the middle-aged," the conflict among regions, 
sexes, religions — all these continue. Some, indeed, will be sharpened. 

, But all of them are shaped by, and subordinated to, the su-per- 
struggle. It is the super-struggle that most basically determines the 

Meanwhile, two things cut through everything as the Third Wave 
thunders in our ears. One is the shift toward a higher level of diversity 
in society — the de-massification of mass society. The second is 
acceleration — the faster pace at which 



historical change occurs. Together these place tremendous strains on 
individuals and institutions alike, intensifying the super-struggle as it 
rages about us. 

Accustomed to coping with low diversity and slow change, individuals 
and institutions suddenly find themselves trying to cope with high 
diversity and high-speed change. The cross-pressures threaten to 
overload their decisional competence. The result is future shock. 

We are left with only one option. We must be willing to reshape 
ourselves and our institutions to deal with the new realities. 

For that is the price of admission to a workable and decently humane 
future. To make the necessary changes, however, we must take a 
totally fresh and imaginative look at two blazing issues. Both are 
crucial to our survival, yet all but ignored in public discussion: the 
future of personality and the politics of the future. 

To which we now turn... 



A new civilization is forming. But where do we fit into it? Don't today's 
technological changes and social upheavals mean the end of 
friendship, love, commitment, community, and caring? Won't 
tomorrow's electronic marvels make human relationships even more 
vacuous and vicarious than they are today? 

These are legitimate questions. They arise from reasonable fears, and 
only a naive technocrat would brush them lightly aside. For if we look 
around us we find widespread evidence of psychological breakdown. It 
is as though a bomb had gone off in our communal "psycho-sphere." 
We are, in fact, experiencing not merely the breakup of the Second 
Wave techno-sphere, info-sphere, or socio-sphere but the crack-up of 
its psycho-sphere as well. 

Throughout the affluent nations the litany is all too familiar: rising rates 
of juvenile suicide, dizzyingly high levels of alcoholism, widespread 
psychological depression, vandalism, and crime. In the United States, 
emergency rooms are crowded with "potheads," "speed freaks" and 
"Quaalude kids," "coke sniffers" and "heroin junkies," not to mention 
people having "nervous breakdowns." 

Social work and mental health industries are booming everywhere. In 
Washington a President's Commission on Mental Health announces 
that fully one fourth of all citizens hi Ihe United States suffer from some 
form of severe emotional stress. And a National Institute of Mental 
Health psychologist, charging that almost no family is free of some 
form of 




mental disorder, declares that "psychological turbulence ... is rampant 
in an American society that is confused, divided and concerned about 
its future." 

It is true that spongy definitions and unreliable statistics make such 
sweeping generalizations suspect, and it is doubly true that earlier 
societies were scarcely models of good mental health. Yet something 
is terribly wrong today. 

There is a harassed, knife-edge quality to daily life. Nerves are ragged, 
and — as the scuffles and shootings in subways or on gas queues 
suggest — tempers are barely under hair-trigger control. Millions of 
people are terminally fed up. 

They are, moreover, increasingly hassled by an apparently swelling 
army of heavy breathers, kooks, flakes, weirdos, and psychos whose 
antisocial behavior is frequently glamorized by the media. In the West 
at least, we see a pernicious romanti-cization of insanity, a glorification 

of the "cuckoo nest" inmate. Best-sellers proclaim that madness is a 
myth, and a literary journal springs up in Berkeley dedicated to the 
notion that "Madness, Genius and Sainthood all lie in the same realm, 
and should be given the same name and prestige." 

Meanwhile, millions of individuals search frantically for their own 
identities or for some magic therapy to re-integrate their personalities, 
provide instant intimacy or ecstasy, or lead them to "higher" states of 

By the late 1970's a human potential movement, spreading eastward 
from California, had spawned some 8,000 different "therapies" 
consisting of odds and ends of psychoanalysis, Eastern religion, 
sexual experimentation, game playing, and old-time revivalism. In the 
words of one critical survey, "these techniques were neatly packaged 
and distributed coast to coast under names like Mind Dynamics, Arica, 
and Silva Mind Control. Transcendental Meditation was already being 
peddled like speed reading; Scientology's Dianetics had been mass- 
marketing its own popular therapy since the fifties. At the same time, 
America's religious cults got into the swing, fanning out quietly across 
the country in massive fund-raising and recruitment drives." 

More important than the growing human-potential industry is the 
Christian evangelical movement. Appealing to poorer and less 
educated segments of the public, making sophisticated use of high- 
powered radio and television, the "bora again" movement is ballooning 
in size. Religious hucksters, riding its crest, send their followers 
scrambling for salvation in a society they picture as decadent and 


This wave of malaise has not struck all parts of the technological world 
with equal force. For this reason, readers in Europe and elsewhere 
may be tempted to shrug it off as a largely American phenomenon, 
while in the United States itself some still regard it as just another 
manifestation of California's fabled flakiness. 

Neither view could be further from the truth. If psychic distress and 
disintegration are most strikingly evident hi the United States, and 
especially California, it merely reflects the fact that the Third Wave has 
arrived a bit earlier than elsewhere, causing Second Wave social 
structures to topple sooner and more spectacularly. 

Indeed, a kind of paranoia has settled over many communities, and not 
just in the United States. In Rome and Turin, terrorists stalk the streets. 
In Paris, and even in once peaceful London, muggings and vandalism 
increase. In Chicago, elderly people are afraid to walk the streets after 
dark. In New York, schools and subways crackle with violence. And 
hack in California, a magazine offers its readers a supposedly practical 
guide to "handguns and gun courses, attack-trained dogs, burglar 
alarms, personal-safety devices, self-defense courses and 
computerized security systems." 

There is a sick odor hi the air. It is the smell of a dying Second Wave 


To create a fulfilling emotional life and a sane psycho-sphere for the 
emerging civilization of tomorrow, we must recognize three basic 
requirements of any individual: the needs for commmumty, structure, 
and meaning. Understanding how the collapse of Second Wave 
society undermines all three suggests how we might begin designing a 
healthier psychological environment for ourselves and our children in 
the future. 

To begin with, any decent society must generate a feeling of 
community. Community offsets loneliness. It gives people a vitally 
necessary sense of belonging. Yet today the institutions on which 
community depends are crumbling in all the techno-societies. The 
result is a spreading plague of loneliness. 

From Los Angeles to Leningrad, teen-agers, unhappy married couples, 
single parents, ordinary working people, and the 



elderly, all complain of social isolation. Parents confess that their 
children are too busy to see them or even to telephone. Lonely 
strangers in bars or launderettes offer what one sociologist calls "those 
infinitely sad confidences." Singles' clubs and discos serve as flesh 
markets for desperate divorcees. 

Loneliness is even a neglected factor in the economy. How many 
upper-middle-class housewives, driven to distraction by the clanging 
emptiness of then* affluent suburban homes, have gone into the job 
market to preserve their sanity? How many pets (and carloads of pet 
food) are bought to break the silence of an empty home? Loneliness 
supports much of our travel and .entertainment business. It contributes 
to drug use, depression, and declining productivity. And it creates a 
lucrative "lonely-hearts" industry that purports to help the lonely locate 
and lasso Mr. or Ms. "Right." 

The hurt of being alone is, of course, hardly new. But loneliness is now 
so widespread it has become, paradoxically, a shared experience. 

Community demands more than emotionally satisfying bonds between 
individuals, however. It also requires strong ties of loyalty between 
individuals and their organizations. Just as they miss the 
companionship of other individuals, millions today feel equally cut off 
from the institutions of which they are a part. They hunger for 
institutions worthy of their respect, affection, and loyalty. 

The corporation offers a case in point. 

As companies have grown larger and more impersonal and have 
diversified into many disparate activities, employees have been left 

with little sense of shared mission. The feeling of community is absent. 
The very term "corporate loyalty" has an archaic ring to it. Indeed, 
loyalty to a company is considered by many a betrayal of self. In The 
Bottom Line, Fletcher Knebel's popular novel about big business, the 
heroine snaps to her executive husband: "Company loyalty! It makes 
me want to vomit." 

Except in Japan, where the lifetime employment system and corporate 
paternalism still exist (though for a shrinking percentage of the labor 
force), work relationships are increasingly transient and emotionally 
unsatisfying. Even when companies make an effort to provide a social 
dimension to employment — an annual picnic, a company-sponsored 
bowling team, an office Christmas party — most on-the-job relationships 
are no more than skin-deep. 

For such reasons, few today have any sense of belonging to 


something bigger and better than themselves. This warm participatory 
feeling emerges spontaneously from time to time tluring crisis, stress, 
disaster, or mass uprising. The great student strikes of the sixties, for 
example, produced a glow of communal feeling. The antinuclear 
demonstrations today do the same. But both the movements and the 
feelings they arouse are fleeting. Community is in short supply. 

One clue to the plague of loneliness lies in our rising level of social 
diversity. By de-massifying society, by accentuating differences rather 
than similarities, we help people individualize themselves. We make it 
possible for each of us more nearly to fulfill his or her potential. But we 
also make human contact more difficult. For the more individualized we 
are, the more difficult it becomes to find a mate or a lover who has 
precisely matching interests, values, schedules, or tastes. Friends are 
also harder to come by. We become choosier in our social ties. But so 
do others. The result is a great many ill-matched relationships. Or no 
relationships at all. 

The breakup of mass society, therefore, while holding out the promise 
of much greater individual self-fulfillment, is at least for the present 
spreading the pain of isolation. If the emergent Third Wave society is 
not to be icily metallic, with a vacuum for a heart, it must attack this 
problem frontally. It must restore community. 

How might we begin to do this? 

Once we recognize that loneliness is no longer an individual matter but 
a public problem created by the disintegration of Second Wave 
institutions, there are plenty of things we can do about it. We can begin 
where community usually begins — in the family, by expanding its 
shrunken functions. 

The family, since the industrial revolution, has been progressively 
relieved of the burden of its elderly. If we stripped this responsibility 

from the family, perhaps the time has come to restore it partially. Only 
a nostalgic fool would favor dismantling public and private pension 
systems, or making old people completely dependent on their families 
as they once were. But why not offer tax and other incentives for 
families — including non-nuclear and unconventional families — who 
look after their own elderly instead of farming them out to impersonal 
old-age "homes." Why not reward, rather than economically punish, 
those who maintain and solidify family bonds across generational 



The same principle can be extended to other functions of the family as 
well. Families should be encouraged to take a larger — not smaller — 
role in the education of the young. Parents willing to teach their own 
children at home should be aided by the schools, not regarded as 
freaks or lawbreakers. And parents should have more, not less, 
influence on the schools. 

At the same time much could be done by the schools themselves to 
create a sense of belonging. Instead of grading students purely on 
individual performance, some part of each student's grade could be 
made dependent on the performance of the class as a whole or some 
team within it. This would give early and overt support to the idea that 
each of us has responsibility for others. With a bit of encouragement, 
imaginative educators could come up with many other, better ways to 
promote a sense of community. 

Corporations, too, could do much to begin building human ties afresh. 
Third Wave production makes possible decentralization and smaller, 
more personal work units. Innovative companies might build morale 
and a sense of belonging by asking groups of workers to organize 
themselves into mini-companies or cooperatives and contracting 
directly with these groups to get specific jobs done. 

This breakup of huge corporations into small, self-managed units could 
not merely unleash enormous new productive energies but build 
community at the same time. 

Norman Macrae, deputy editor of The Economist, has suggested that 
"Semi-autonomous teams of perhaps six to 17 people, who choose to 
work together as friends, should be told by market forces what module 
of output will be paid for at what pay rates per unit of output, and then 
should increasingly be allowed to produce it in their own way." 

Indeed, continues Macrae, "those who devise successful group 
friendship cooperatives will do a lot of social good, and perhaps will 
deserve some subsidies or tax advantages." (What is particularly 
interesting about such arrangements is that one could create 
cooperatives within a profit-making corporation or, for that matter, 
profit-making companies within the framework of a socialist production 

Corporations could also look hard at their retirement practices. Ejecting 
an elderly worker all at once not only deprives the individual of a 
regular, full-size paycheck, and takes away what society regards as a 
productive role, but also truncates many social ties. Why not more 
partial retirement plans, and 



programs that assign semi-retired people to work for understaffed 
community services on a volunteer or part-pay basis? 

Another community-building device might draw retired people into 
fresh contact with the young, and vice versa. Older people in every 
community could be appointed "adjunct teachers" or "mentors," invited 
to teach some of their skills in local schools on a part-time or volunteer 
basis or to have one student, let's say, regularly visit them for 
instruction. Under school supervision, retired photographers could 
teach photography, car mechanics how to repair a recalcitrant engine, 
bookkeepers how to keep books, and so on. In many cases a healthy 
bond would grow up between mentor and "mentee" that would go 
beyond instruction. 

It is not a sin to be lonely and, in a society whose structures are fast 
disintegrating, it should not be a disgrace. Thus a letter writer to the 
Jewish Chronicle in London asks: "Why does it seem 'not quite nice' to 
go to groups where it is perfectly obvious that the reason that everyone 
is there is to meet people of the opposite sex?" The same question 
would apply to singles' bars, discos, and holiday resorts. 

The letter points out that hi the shtetls of Eastern Europe the institution 
of shadchan or matchmaker served a useful purpose in bringing 
marriageable people together, and that dating bureaus, marriage 
services, and similar agencies are just as necessary today. "We should 
be able to admit openly that we need help, human contact and a social 

We need many new services — both traditional and innovative — to help 
bring lonely people together in a dignified way. Some people now rely 
on "lonely-hearts" ads in the magazines to help them locate a 
companion or mate. Before long we can be sure local or neighborhood 
cable television services •will be running video ads so prospective 
partners can actually see each other before dating. (Such programs, 
one suspects, will have enormously high ratings.) 

But should dating services be limited to providing romantic contacts? 
Why not services — or places — where people might come simply to 
meet and make a friend, as distinct from a lover or potential mate? 
Society needs such services and, so long as they are honest and 
decent, we should not be embarrassed to invent and use them. 



At the level of longer-term social policy we should also move rapidly 
toward "telecommunity." Those who wish community restored should 
concentrate attention on the socially fragmenting impact of commuting 
and high mobility. Having written in detail about this in Future Shock, I 
will not retrace the argument. But one of the key steps that can be 
taken toward building a sense of community into the Third Wave is the 
selective substitution of communication for transportation. 

The popular fear that computers and telecommunications will deprive 
us of face-to-face contact and make human relations more vicarious is 
naive and simplistic. In fact, the reverse might very well be the case. 
While some office or factory relationships might be attenuated, bonds 
in the home and the community could well be strengthened by these 
new technologies. Computers and communications can help us create 

If nothing else, they can free larger numbers of us to give up 
commuting — the centrifugal force that disperses us hi the morning, 
throws us into superficial work relationships, while weakening our more 
important social ties in the home and community. By making it possible 
for large numbers of people to work at home (or in close-by 
neighborhood work centers), the new technologies could make for 
warmer, more bonded families and a closer, more finely grained 
community life. The electronic cottage may turn out to be the 
characteristic mom-and-pop business of the future. And it could lead, 
as we have seen, to a new work-together family unit involving children 
(and sometimes even expanded to take in outsiders as well). 

It is not unlikely that couples who spend a lot of time working together 
hi the home during the day will want to go out in the evening. (Today 
the more typical pattern is for the commuter to collapse on returning 
home and refuse to set foot outside.) As communications begin to 
replace commuting, we can expect to see a lively proliferation of 
neighborhood restaurants, theaters, pubs, and clubs, a revitalization of 
church and voluntary group activity — all or mostly on a face-to-face 

Nor, for that matter, are all vicarious relationships to be despised. The 
issue is not simply vicariousness, but passivity and powerlessness. For 
a shy person or an invalid, unable to 



leave home or fearful about meeting people face to face, the emerging 
info-sphere will make possible interactive electronic contact with others 
who share similar interests — chess players, stamp collectors, poetry 
lovers, or sports fans — dialed up instantly from anywhere in the 

Vicarious though they may be, such relationships can provide a far 
better antidote to loneliness than television as we know it today, in 
which the messages all flow one way and the passive receiver is 
powerless to interact with the flickering image on the screen. 

Communications, selectively applied, can serve the goal of 

In short, as we build a Third Wave civilization there are many things we 
can do to sustain and enrich, rather than destroy, community. 


The reconstruction of community, however, must be seen as only a 
small part of a larger process. For the collapse of Second Wave 
institutions also breaks down structure and meaning in our lives. 

Individuals need life structure. A life lacking in comprehensible 
structure is an aimless wreck. The absence of structure breeds 

Structure provides the relatively fixed points of reference we need. 

That is why, for many people, a job is crucial psychologically, over and 
above the paycheck. By making clear demands on their time and 
energy, it provides an element of structure around which the rest of 
their lives can be organized. The absolute demands imposed on a 
parent by an infant, the responsibility to care for an invalid, the tight 
discipline demanded by membership in a church or, in some countries, 
a political party — all these may also impose a simple structure on life. 

Faced with an absence of visible structure, some young people use 
drugs to create it. "Heroin addiction," writes psychologist Rollo May, 
"gives a way of life to the young person.. Having suffered under 
perpetual purposelessness, his structure now consists of how to 
escape the cops, how to get the money he needs, where to get his 
next fix — all these give him a new web of energy in place of his 
previous structureless world." 



The nuclear family, socially imposed schedules, well-defined roles, 
visible status distinctions, and comprehensible lines of authority — all 
these factors created adequate life structure for the majority of people 
during the Second Wave era. 

Today the breakup of the Second Wave is dissolving the structure in 
many individual lives before the new structure-providing institutions of 
the Third Wave future are laid into place. This, not merely some 
personal failing, explains why for millions today daily life is experienced 
as lacking any semblance of recognizable order. 

To this loss of order we must also add the loss of meaning. The feeling 
that our lives "count" comes from healthy relationships with the 
surrounding society — from family, corporation, church, or political 
movement. It also depends on being able to see ourselves as part of a 
larger, even cosmic, scheme of things. 

The sudden shift of social ground rules today, the smudging of roles, 
status distinctions, and lines of authority, the immersion hi blip culture 

and, above all, the breakup of the great thought -system, indust-reality, 
have shattered the world-image most of us carry around in our skulls. 

In consequence, most people surveying the world around them today 
see only chaos. They suffer a sense of personal powerlessness and 

It is only when we put all this together — the loneliness, the loss of 
structure, and the collapse of meaning attendant on the decline of 
industrial civilization — that we can begin to make sense of some of the 
most puzzling social phenomena of our time, not the least of which is 
the astonishing rise of the cult 


Why do so many thousands of apparently intelligent, seemingly 
successful people allow themselves to be sucked into the myriad cults 
sprouting today in the widening cracks of the Second Wave system? 
What accounts for the total control that a Jim Jones was able to 
exercise over the lives of his followers? 

It is loosely estimated today that some 3,000,000 Americans belong to 
about 1 ,000 religious cults, the largest of which bear names like the 
Unification Church, the Divin* 



Light Mission, the Hare Krishna, and the Way, each of which has 
temples or branches in most major cities. One of them alone, Sun 
Myung Moon's Unification Church, claims 60,000 to 80,000 members, 
publishes a daily newspaper in New York, owns a fish-packing plant in 
Virginia, and has many other money -creating enterprises. Its 
mechanically cheerful fund raisers are a common sight. 

Nor are such groups confined to the United States. A recent 
sensational lawsuit in Switzerland called international attention to the 
Divine Light Center in Winterthur. "The cults and sects and 
communities ... are most numerous in the United States because 
America is, in this matter, too, 20 years ahead of the rest of the world," 
says the London Economist. "But they are to be found in Europe, west 
and east, and in many other places." Just why is it that such groups 
can command almost total dedication and obedience from their 
members? Their secret is simple. They understand the need for 
community, structure, and meaning. For these are what all cults 

For lonely people, cults offer, in the beginning, indiscriminate 
friendship. Says an official of the Unification Church: "If someone's 
lonely, we talk to them. There are a lot of lonely people walking 
around." The newcomer is surrounded by people offering friendship 
and beaming approval. Many of the cults require communal living. So 
powerfully rewarding is (his sudden warmth and attention that cult 
members are often willing to give up contact with their families and 
former friends, to donate their life's earnings to the cult, to forego drugs 
and even sex in return. 

But the cult sells more than community. It also offers much-needed 
structure. Cults impose tight constraints on behavior. They demand 
and create enormous discipline, some apparently going so far as to 
impose that discipline through heatings, forced labor, and their own 
forms of ostracism or Imprisonment. Psychiatrist H. A. S. Sukhdeo of 
the New Jer-Nt-y School of Medicine, after interviewing survivors of the 
Jonestown mass suicide and reading the writings of members <»f Hie 
Peoples Temple, concludes: "Our society is so free and l« u nissive, 
and people have so many options to choose from they cannot make 
their own decisions effectively. They others to make the decision and 
they will follow." A man named Sherwin Harris, whose daughter and 
ex-wife among the men and women who followed Jim Jones to «i. .nil 
in Guyana, has summed it up in a sentence. "This is an 



example," Harris said, "of what some Americans will subject 
themselves to in order to bring some structure into their lives." 

The last vital product marketed by the cults is "meaning." Each has its 
own single-minded version of reality — religious, political, or cultural. 

The cult possesses the sole truth and those living in the outside world 
who fail to recognize the value of that truth are pictured as either 
misinformed or Satanic. The message of the cult is drummed into the 
new member at all-day, all-night sessions. It is preached incessantly, 
until he or she begins to use its terms of reference, its vocabulary, 
and — ultimately — its metaphor for existence. The "meaning" delivered 
by the cult may be absurd to the out* sider. But that doesn't matter. 

Indeed, the exact, pinned-down content of the cult message is almost 
incidental. Its power lies in providing synthesis, in offering an 
alternative to the fragmented blip culture around us. Once the 
framework is accepted by the cult recruit, it helps organize much of the 
chaotic information bombarding him or her from the outside. Whether 
or not that framework of ideas corresponds to outer reality, it provides 
a neat set of cubbyholes in which the member can store incoming 
data. It thereby relieves the stress of overload and confusion. It 
provides not truth, as such, but order, and thus meaning: 

By giving the cult member a sense that reality is meaningful — and that 
he or she must carry that meaning to outsiders — the cult offers 
purpose and coherence in a seemingly incoherent world. 

The cult, however, sells community, structure, and meaning at an 
extremely high price: the mindless surrender of self. For some, no 
doubt, this is the only alternative to personal disintegration. But for 
most of us title cult's way out is too costly. 

To make Third Wave civilization both sane and democratic, we need to 
do more than create new energy supplies or plug in new technology. 
We need to do more than create community. We need to provide 
structure and meaning as well. And once again there are simple things 
we can do to get started. 

LIFE-ORGANIZERS AND SEMI-CULTS At the very simplest and most 
immediate level, why not 



create a cadre of professional and paraprofessiomal "life-or-ganizers"? 
For example, we probably need fewer psychother-apists burrowing 
mole-like into id and ego, and more people who can help us, even in 
little ways, to pull our daily lives to-gether. Among the most widely 
heard don't -you-believe-it phrases in use today are: "Tomorrow I'll get 
myself or-ganized" or "I'm getting my act together." 

Vet structuring one's life under today's conditions of high social and 
technological turmoil is harder and hajder to do. The breakup of normal 
Second Wave structures., the over-choice of life-styles, schedules, and 
educational opportunities — all, as we have seen, increase the difficulty. 
For the less affluent, economic pressures impose high structure. For 
the middle class, and especially their children, the reverse is true. Why 
not recognize this fact? 

Some psychiatrists today perform a life-organizing function. Instead of 
years on the couch, they offer practical assistance in finding work, 
locating a girl or boyfriend, budgeting one's money, following a diet, 
and so forth. We need many more such consultants, structure- 
providers, and we need feel no shame about seeking their services. 

In education, we need to begin paying attention to matters routinely 
ignored. We spend long hours trying to teach a variety of courses on, 
say, the structure of government or the structure of the amoeba. But 
how much effort goes into studying the structure of everyday life — the 
way time is allocated, the personal uses of money, the places to go for 
help in a society exploding with complexity? We take for granted that 
young people already know their way around our social structure. In 
fact, most have only the dimmest image of the way the world of work or 
business is organized. Most students have no conception of the 
architecture of their own city's economy, or the way the local 
bureaucracy operates, or the place to go to lodge a complaint against 
a merchant. Most do not even understand how their own schools — 
even universities — are structured, let alone how much structures are 
changing under the impact of the Third Wave. 

We also need to take a fresh look at structure-providing institutions — 
including cults. A sensible society should provide a spectrum of 
institutions, ranging from those that are free-form to those that are 
tightly structured. We need open classrooms as well as traditional 
schools. We need easy-come-easy-go organizations as well as rigid 
monastic orders (secular as well as religious). 



Today the gap between the total structure offered by the cult and the 
seemingly total structurelessness of daily life may well be too wide. 

If we find the complete subjugation demanded by many cults to be 
repellent, we should perhaps encourage the formation of what might 
be called "semi-cults" that lie somewhere between structureless 
freedom and tightly structured regimentation. Religious organizations, 
vegetarians, and other sects or groupings might actually be 
encouraged to form communities in which moderate to high structure is 
imposed on those who wish to live that way. These semi-cults might be 
licensed or monitored to assure that they do not engage in physical or 
mental violence, embezzlement, extortion, or other such practices, and 
could be set up so that people in need of external structure can join 
them for a six-month or one-year hitch — and then leave without 
pressure or recriminations. 

Some people might find it helpful to live within a semi-cult for a time, 
then return to the outside world, then plug back into the organization 
for a time, and so forth, alternating between the demands of high, 
imposed structure and the freedom offered by the larger society. 

Should this not be possible for them? 

Such semi-cults also suggest the need for secular organizations that 
lie somewhere between the freedom of civilian life and the discipline of 
the army. Why not a variety of civilian service corps, perhaps 
organized by cities, school systems, or even private companies to 
perform useful community services on a contract basis, employing 
young people who might live together under strict disciplinary rules and 
be paid army-scale wages. (To bring these paychecks up to the 
prevailing minimum wage, corps members might receive 
supplementary vouchers good for university tuition or training.) A 
"pollution corps," a "public sanitation corps," a "paramedic corps,'* or a 
corps designed to assist the elderly — such organizations could yield 
high dividends for both community and individual. 

In addition to providing useful services and a degree of life-structure, 
such organizations could also help bring much-needed meaning into 
the lives of their members — not some spurious mystical or political 
theology but the simple ideal of service to community. 

Beyond all such measures, however, we shall need to integrate 
personal meaning with larger, more encompassing world views. It is 
not enough for people to understand (or think 



they understand) their own small contributions to society. They must 
also have some sense, even if inarticulate, of how they fit into the 
larger scheme of things. As the Third Wave arrives we will need to 
formulate sweeping new integrative world views — coherent syntheses, 
not merely blips — that tie things together. 

No single world view can ever capture the whole truth. Only by 
applying multiple and temporary metaphors can we gain a rounded (if 

still incomplete) picture of the world. But to acknowledge this axiom is 
not the same as saying life is meaningless. Indeed, even if life is 
meaningless hi some cosmic sense, we can and often do construct 
meaning, drawing it from decent social relations and picturing 
ourselves as part of a larger drama — the coherent unfolding of history. 

In building Third Wave civilization, therefore, we must ga beyond the 
attack on loneliness. We must also begin providing a framework of 
order and purpose in life. For meaning, structure, and community are 
interrelated preconditions for a livable future. 

In working toward these ends, it will help to understand that the 
present agony of social isolation, the impersonality, structurelessness, 
and sense of meaninglessness from which so many people suffer are 
symptoms of the breakdown of the past rather than intimations of the 

It will not be enough, however, for us to change society. For as we 
shape Third Wave civilization through our own daily decisions and 
actions, Third Wave civilization will hi turn shape us. A new psycho- 
sphere is emerging that will fundamentally alter our character. And it is 
to this — the personality of the future — that we next turn. 


As a novel civilization erupts into our everyday lives we are left 
wondering whether we, too, are obsolete. With so many of our habits, 
values, routines, and responses called into question, it is hardly 
surprising if we sometimes feel like people of the past, relics of Second 
Wave civilization. But if some of us are indeed anachronisms, are there 
also people of the future among us — anticipatory citizens, as it were, of 
the Third Wave civilization to come? Once we look past the decay and 
disintegration around us, can we see the emerging outlines of the 
personality of the future — the coming, so to speak, of a "new man"? 

If so, it would not be the first time un homme nouveau was supposedly 
detected on the horizon. In a brilliant essay, Andre Reszler, director of 
the Center for European Culture, has described earlier attempts to 
forecast the coming of a new type of human being. At the end of the 
eighteenth century there was, for example, the "American Adam" — 
man born anew in North America, supposedly without the vices and 
weaknesses of the European. In the middle of the twentieth century, 
the new man was supposed to appear in Hitler's Germany. Nazism, 
wrote Hermann Rauschning, "is more than a religion; it is the will to 
create the superman." This sturdy "Aryan" would be part peasant, part 
warrior, part God. "I have seen the new man," Hitler once confided to 
Rauschning. "He is intrepid and cruel. I stood in fear before him." 

The image of a new man (few ever speak of a "new woman," except as 
an afterthought) also haunted the Com-380 



munists. The Soviets still speak of the coming of "Socialist Man." But it 
was Trotsky who rhapsodized most vividly about the future human. 

"Man will become incomparably stronger, wiser and more perceptive. 
His body will become more harmonious, his movements more 
rhythmical, his voice more melodious. His ways of life will acquire a 
powerfully dramatic quality. The average man will attain the level of an 
Aristotle, of a Goethe, of a Marx." 

As recently as a decade or two ago, Frantz Fanon heralded the coming 
of yet another new man who would have a "new mind." Che Guevara 
saw his ideal man of the future as having a richer interior life. Each 
image is different. 

Yet Reszler persuasively points out that behind most of these images 
of the "new man" there lurks that familiar old fellow, the Noble Savage, 
a mythic creature endowed with all sorts of qualities that civilization 
has supposedly corrupted or worn away. Reszler properly questions 
this romanticization of the primitive, reminding us that regimes which 
set out consciously to foster a "new man" have usually brought 
totalitarian havoc in then* wake. 

It would be foolish, therefore, to herald yet once more the birth of a 
"new man" (unless, now that the genetic engineers are at work, we 
mean that in a frightening, strictly biological sense). The idea suggests 
a prototype, a single ideal model that the entire civilization strains to 
emulate. And in a society moving rapidly toward de-massification, 
nothing is more unlikely. 

Nevertheless, it would be equally foolish to believe that fundamentally 
changed material conditions of life leave personality or, more 
accurately, social character, unaffected. As we change the deep 
structure of society, we also modify people. Even if one believed in 
some unchanging human nature, a commonly held view I do not share, 
society would still reward and elicit certain character traits and penalize 
others, leading to evolutionary changes in the distribution of traits in 
the population. 

The psychoanalyst Erich Fromm, who has perhaps written best about 
social character, defines it as "that part of their character structure that 
is common to most members of the group." In any culture, he tells us, 
there are widely shared traits that make up the social character. In 
turn, social character shapes people so that "men* behavior is not a 
matter of conscious decision as to whether or not to follow the social 
pattern, but one of wanting to act as they have to act and at 



the same time finding gratification in acting according to the 
requirements of the culture." 

What the Third Wave is doing, therefore, is not creating some ideal 
superman, some new heroic species stalking through our midst, but 
producing dramatic changes in the traits distributed through society — 
not a new man but a new social character. Our task, therefore, is not to 

hunt for the mythic "man” but for the traits most likely to be valued by 
the civilization of tomorrow. 

These character traits do not simply arise from (or reflect) outside 
pressures on people. They spring from the tension that exists between 
the inner drives or desires of many individuals and the outer drives or 
pressures of the society. But once formed, these shared character 
traits play an influential role in the economic and social development of 
the society. 

The coming of the Second Wave, for example, was accom panied by 
the spread of the Protestant Ethic with its emphasis on thrift, 
unremitting toil, and the deferral of gratification-traits which channeled 
enormous energies into the tasks of economic development. The 
Second Wave also brought changes in objectivity-subjectivity, 
individualism, attitudes toward authority, and the ability to think 
abstractly, to empathize and to imagine. 

For peasants to be machined into an industrial work force, they had to 
be given the rudiments of literacy. They had to be educated, informed, 
and molded. They had to understand that another way of life was 
possible. Large numbers of people were needed, therefore, with the 
capacity to imagine themselves in a new role and setting. Their minds 
had to be liberated from the proximate present. Thus, just as to some 
extent it had to democratize communications and politics, industrialism 
was also forced to democratize the imagination. 

The result of such psychocultural changes was a changed distribution 
of traits — a new social character. And today we are once more at the 
edge of a similar psychocultural upheaval. 

The fact that we are racing away from Second Wave Orwellian 
uniformity makes it difficult to generalize about the emerging psyche. 
Here, even more than elsewhere in dealing with the future, we can only 

Nevertheless, we can point to powerful changes that are likely to 
influence psychological development in Third Wave society. And this 
leads us to fascinating questions, if not con- 



fusions. For these changes affect child-rearing, education, 
adolescence, work, and even the way we form our own self-images. 

And it is impossible to change all these without deeply altering the 
entire social character of the future. 


To begin with, the child of tomorrow is likely to grow up In a society far 
less child-centered than our own. 

The "graying" or aging of the population in all high-technology 
countries implies greater public attention to the needs of the elderly 

and a correspondingly reduced focus on the young. Furthermore, as 
women develop jobs or careers in the exchange economy, the 
traditional need to channel all their energies into motherhood is 

During the Second Wave, millions of parents lived out their own 
dreams through their children — often because they could reasonably 
expect their children to do better socially and economically than they 
themselves had done. This expectation of upward mobility encouraged 
parents to concentrate enormous psychic energies on their children. 
Today many middle-class parents face agonizing disillusionment as 
their children — in a far more difficult world — move down, rather than 
up, the socio-economic scale. The likelihood of surrogate fulfillment is 

For these reasons, the baby born tomorrow is likely to enter a society 
no longer obsessed with — perhaps not even terribly interested in — the 
needs, wants, psychological developments, and instant gratification of 
the child. If so, the Dr. Spocks of tomorrow will urge a more structured 
and demand-ing childhood. Parents will be less permissive. 

Nor, one suspects, will adolescence be as prolonged and painful a 
process as it is today for so many. Millions of children are being 
brought up in single-parent homes, with working mothers (or fathers) 
squeezed by an erratic economy, and with less of the luxury and time 
available to the flower child generation of the 1960's. 

Others, later on, are likely to be reared in work -at-home or electronic- 
cottage families. Just as in many Second Wave families built around a 
mom-and-pop business, we can expect the children of tomorrow's 
electronic cottage to be drawn directly into the family's work tasks and 
given growing responsibility from an early age. 



Such facts suggest a shorter childhood and youth but a more 
responsible and productive one. Working alongside adults, children in 
such homes are also likely to be less subject to peer pressures. They 
may well turn out to be the high achievers of tomorrow. 

During the transition to the new society, wherever jobs remain scarce, 
Second Wave labor unions will undoubtedly fight to exclude young 
people from the job market outside the home. Unions (and teachers, 
whether unionized or not) will lobby for ever-longer years of 
compulsory or near-compulsory schooling. To the extent that they 
succeed, millions of young people will continue to be forced into the 
painful limbo of prolonged adolescence. We may, therefore, see a 
sharp contrast between young people who grow up fast because of 
early work responsibilities in the electronic cottage and those who 
mature more slowly outside. 

Over the long pull, however, we can expect education also to change. 
More learning will occur outside, rather than inside, the classroom. 
Despite the pressure from unions, the years of compulsory schooling 

will grow shorter, not longer. Instead of rigid age segregation, young 
and old will mingle. Education will become more interspersed and 
interwoven with work, and more spread out over a lifetime. And work 
itself — whether production for the market or presumption for use in the 
home — will probably begin earlier hi life than it has in the last 
generation or two. For just such reasons, Third Wave civilization may 
well favor quite different traits among the young — less responsiveness 
to peers, less consumption-orientation, and less hedonistic self- 

Whether this is so or not, one thing is certain. Growing up will be 
different. And so will the resultant personalities. 


As the adolescent matures and enters the job arena, new forces come 
into play on his or her personality, rewarding some traits and punishing 
or penalizing others. 

Throughout the Second Wave era, work in the factories and offices 
steadily grew more repetitive, specialized, and time-pressured, and 
employers wanted workers who were obedient, punctual, and willing to 
perform rote tasks. The corresponding traits were fostered by the 
schools and rewarded by the corporation. 


As the Third Wave cuts across our society, work grows less, not more, 
repetitive. It becomes less fragmented, with each person doing a 
somewhat larger, rather than smaller, task. Flextime and self-pacing 
replace the old need for mass synchronization of behavior. Workers 
are forced to cope with more frequent changes in their tasks, as well 
as a blinding succession of personnel transfers, product changes, and 

What Third Wave employers increasingly need, therefore, are men and 
women who accept responsibility, who under-stand how their work 
dovetails with that of others, who can handle ever larger tasks, who 
adapt swiftly to changed circumstances, and who are sensitively tuned 
hi to the people around them. 

The Second Wave firm frequently paid off for plodding bureaucratic 
behavior. The Third Wave firm requires people who are less pre- 
programmed and faster on their feet. The difference, says Donald 
Conover, general manager of Corporate Education for Western 
Electric, is like that between classical musicians who play each note 
according to a predetermined, pre-set pattern, and jazz improvisers 
who, once having decided what song to play, sensitively pick up cues 
from one another and, on the basis of that, decide what notes to play 

Such people are complex, individualistic, proud of the ways in which 
they differ from other people. They typify the de-massified work force 
needed by Third Wave industry. 

According to opinion researcher Daniel Yankelovich, only 56 percent of 
U.S. workers — mainly the older ones — are still motivated by traditional 
incentives. They are happiest with strict work guidelines and clear 
tasks. They do not expect to find "meaning" in their work. 

By contrast, as much as 17 percent of the work force already reflects 
newer values emerging from the Third Wave. Largely young middle- 
managers, they are, declares Yankelovich, the "hungriest for more 
responsibility and more vital work with a commitment worthy of their 
talent and skills." They seek meaning along with financial reward. 

To recruit such workers, employers are beginning to offer 
individualized rewards. This helps explain why a few advanced 
companies (like TRW Inc., the Cleveland-based high-technology firm) 
now offer employees not a fixed set of fringe benefits but a 
smorgasbord of optional holidays, medical benefits, pensions, and 
insurance. Each worker can tailor 



a package to his or her own needs. Says Yankelovich, "There is no 
one set of incentives with which to motivate the full spectrum of the 
work force." Moreover, he adds, in the mix of rewards for work, money 
no longer has the same motivating power it once did. 

No one suggests these workers don't want money. They certainly do. 
But once a certain income level is reached they vary widely in what 
they want. Additional increments of money no longer have their former 
impact on behavior. When the Bank of America in San Francisco 
offered assistant vice-president Richard Easley a promotion to a 
branch only 20 miles away, Easley refused to accept the carrot. He 
didn't want to commute. A decade ago, when Future Shock first 
described the stress of job mobility, only an estimated 10 percent of 
employees resisted a corporate move. The number has Jumped to 
between a third and a half, according to Merrill Lynch Relocation 
Management, Inc., even though moves are often accompanied by a 
fatter-than-usual raise. "The balance has definitely shifted away from 
saluting the company and marching off to Timbuctu toward a greater 
emphasis on family and life-style," says a vice-president of the 
Celanese Corporation. Like the Third Wave corporation, which must 
respond to more than profit, the employee, too, has "multiple bottom 

Meanwhile, the most ingrained patterns of authority are also changing. 
In Second Wave firms every employee has a single boss. Disputes 
among employees are taken to the boss to be resolved. In the new 
matrix organizations the style is entirely different. Workers have more 
than one boss at a time. People of different rank and different skills 
meet in temporary, "ad-hocratic" groups. And in the words of Davis and 
Lawrence, authors of a standard text on the subject: "Differences . .. 
are resolved without a common boss readily available to arbitrate. ... 
The assumption in a matrix is that this conflict can be healthy . . . 
differences are valued and people express their views even when they 
know that others may disagree." 

This system penalizes workers who show blind obedience. It rewards 
those who — within limits — talk back. Workers who seek meaning, who 
question authority, who want to exercise discretion, or who demand 
that their work be socially responsible may be regarded as 
troublemakers in Second Wave industries. But Third Wave industries 
cannot run without them. 

Across the board, therefore, we are seeing a subtle but pro- 



found change in the personality traits rewarded by the economic 
system — a change which cannot help but shape the emerging social 


It is not just child-rearing, education, and work that will influence 
personality development in Third Wave civilization. Even deeper forces 
are playing on tomorrow's psyche. For there is more to the economy 
than jobs or paid work. 

I suggested earlier that we might conceive of the economy as having 
two sectors, one in which we produce goods for exchange, the other in 
which we do things for ourselves. One is Ihe market or production 
sector, the other the prosumer sector. And each has its own 
psychological effects on us. For each promotes its own ethic, its own 
set of values, and its own definition of success. 

During the Second Wave the vast expansion of the market economy — 
both capitalist and socialist — encouraged an acquisitive ethic. It gave 
rise to a narrowly economic definition of personal success. 

The advance of the Third Wave, however, is accompanied, as we have 
seen, by a phenomenal increase in self-help and do-it-yourself activity, 
or presumption. Beyond mere hobby-ism, this production for use is 
likely to assume greater economic significance. And as it comes to 
occupy more of our time and energy, it too begins to shape lives and 
mold social character. 

Instead of ranking people by what they own, as the market ethic does, 
the prosumer ethic places a high value on what they do. Having plenty 
of money still carries prestige. But other characteristics count, too. 
Among these are self-reliance, the ability to adapt and survive under 
difficult conditions, and the ability to do things with one's own hands — 
whether to build a fence, to cook a great meal, to make one's own 
clothes, or to restore an antique chest. 

Moreover, while the production or market ethic praises 
singlemindness, the prosumer ethic calls for roundedness instead. 
Versatility is "in." As the Third Wave brings production for exchange 
and production for use into a better balance in the economy, we begin 
to hear a crescendo of demands for a "balanced" way of life. 



This shift of activity from the production sector to the pro-sumption 
sector also suggests the coming of another kind of : balance into 
people's lives. Growing numbers of workers engaged in producing for 
the market spend their time dealing with abstractions — words, 
numbers, models — and people known only slightly, if at all. 

For many, such "headwork" can be fascinating and rewarding. But it is 
often accompanied by the sense of being dissociated — cut off, as it 
were, from the down-to-earth sights, sounds, textures, and emotions of 
everyday existence. Indeed, much of today's glorification of handcrafts, 
gardening, peasant or blue-collar fashions, and what might be called 
"truck-driver chic" may be a compensation for the rising tide of 
abstraction in the production sector. 

By contrast, in presumption we usually deal with a more concrete, 
immediate reality — in firsthand contact with things and people. As more 
people divide their time, serving as part-time workers and part-time 
prosumers, they are in a position to enjoy the concrete along with the 
abstract, the complementary pleasures of both headwork and 
handwork. The prosumer ethic makes handwork respectable again, 
after 300 years of being looked down upon. And this new balance, too, 
is likely to influence the distribution of personality traits. 

Similarly, we have seen that with the rise of industrialism, the spread of 
highly interdependent factory work encouraged men to become 
objective, while staying home and working at low-interdependency 
tasks promoted subjectivity among women. Today, as more women 
are drawn into jobs producing for the marketplace, they too are 
increasingly objec-tivized. They are encouraged to "think like a man.** 
Conversely, as more men stay home, undertaking a greater share of 
the housework, their need for "objectivity" is lessened. They are 

Tomorrow, as many Third Wave people divide their lives between 
working part-time in big, interdependent companies or organizations 
and working part-time for self and family hi small autonomous, 
presuming units — we may well strike a new balance between 
objectivity and subjectivity in both sexes. 

Instead of finding a "male" attitude and a "female" attitude, neither of 
them well-balanced, the system may reward people who are healthily 
able to see the world through both perspectives. Objective 
subjectivists — and vice versa. 

In short, with the rising importance of presumption to the 


overall economy, we touch off another racing current of psy-chological 
change. The combined impact of basic changes in production and 
presumption, added to the deep changes in child-rearing and 
education, promises to remake our social character at least as 
dramatically as the Second Wave did 100 years ago. A new social 
character is cropping up in our very midst. 

In fact, even if every one of these insights were to prove mistaken, if 
every one of the shifts we are beginning to see were to reverse itself, 
there is still one final, giant reason to expect an eruption in the psycho- 
sphere. That reason is summed up in the two words "communications 


The link between communications and character is complex, but 
unbreakable. We cannot transform all our media of communication and 
expect to remain unchanged as a people. A revolution in the media 
must mean a revolution in the psyche. 

During the Second Wave period, people were bathed in a sea of mass- 
produced imagery. A relatively few centrally produced newspapers, 
magazines, radio and television broadcasts, and movies fed what 
critics termed a ""monolithic consciousness." Individuals were 
continually encouraged to compare themselves to a relatively small 
number of role models, and to evaluate their life-styles against a few 
preferred possibilities. In consequence, the range of socially approved 
personality styles was relatively narrow. 

The de-massification of the media today presents a dazzling diversity 
of role models and life-styles for one to measure oneself against. 
Moreover, the new media do not feed us fully formed chunks, but 
broken chips and blips of imagery. Instead of being handed a selection 
of coherent identities to choose among, we are required to piece one 
together: a con-figurative or modular "me." This is far more difficult, 
and it explains why so many millions are desperately searching for 

Caught up in that effort, we develop a heightened awareness of our 
own individuality — of the traits that make us unique. Our self-image 
thus changes. We demand to be seen as, and treated as, individuals, 
and this occurs at pre- 



cisely the time when the new production system requires more 
individualized workers. 

Beyond helping us to crystallize what is purely personal in us, the new 
communications media of the Third Wave turn us into producers — or 
rather prosumers — of our own self-imagery. 

The German poet and social critic Hans Magnus En-zensberger has 
noted that in yesterday's mass media the "technical distinction 

between receivers and transmitters reflects the social division of labor 
into producers and consumers." Throughout the Second Wave era this 
meant that professional communicators produced the messages for 
the audience. The audience remained powerless to respond directly to, 
or to interact with, the message senders. 

By Contrast, the most revolutionary feature of the new means of 
communication is that many of them are interactive — permitting each 
individual user to make or send images as well as merely to receive 
them from the outside. Two-way cable, video cassette, cheap copiers 
and tape recorders, all place the means of communication into the 
hands of the individual. 

Looking ahead, one can imagine a stage at which even ordinary 
television becomes interactive, so that instead of merely watching 
some Archie Bunker or Mary Tyler Moore of the future, we are actually 
able to talk to them and influence their behavior in the show. Even 
now, the Qube cable system makes it technologically possible for 
viewers of a dramatic show to call on the director to speed up or slow 
down the action or to choose one story ending over another. 

The communications revolution gives us each a more complex image 
of self. It differentiates us further. It speeds the very process by which 
we "try on" different images of self and, in fact, accelerates our 
movement through successive images. It makes it possible for us to 
project our image electronically to the world. And nobody fully 
understands what all this will do to our personalities. For in no previous 
civilization have we ever had such powerful tools. We increasingly own 
the technology of consciousness. 

The world we are fast entering is so remote from our past experience 
that all psychological speculations are admittedly shaky. What is 
absolutely clear, however, is that powerful forces are streaming 
together to alter social character — to 



elicit certain traits, to suppress others, and in the process to transform 
us all. 

As we move beyond Second Wave civilization we are doing more than 
shifting from one energy system to another, or from one technological 
base to the next We are revolutionizing inner space as well. In the light 
of this, it would be absurd to project the past upon the future — to 
picture the people of Third Wave civilization in Second Wave terms. 

If our assumptions are even partially correct, individuals will vary more 
vividly tomorrow than they do today. More of them are likely to grow up 
sooner, to show responsibility at an earlier age, to be more adaptable, 
and to evince greater individuality. They are more likely than their 
parents to question authority. They will want money and will work for 
it — but, except under conditions of extreme privation, they will resist 
working for money alone. 

Above all, they seem likely to crave balance hi their lives — balance 
between work and play, between production and presumption, 
between headwork and handwork, between the abstract and the 
concrete, between objectivity and subjectivity. And they will see and 
project themselves in far more complex terms than any previous 

As Third Wave civilization matures, we shall create not a Utopian man 
or woman who towers over the people of the past, not a superhuman 
race of Goethes and Aristotles (or Genghis Khans or Hitlers) but 
merely, and proudly, one hopes, a race— and a civilization — that 
deserves to be called human. 

No hope for such an outcome, no hope for a safe transition to a decent 
new civilization is possible, however, until we face one final imperative: 
the need for political transformation. And it is this prospect — both 
terrifying and exhilarating — that we explore in these final pages. The 
personality of the future must be matched by a politics of the future. 




It is impossible to be simultaneously blasted by a revolution in energy, 
a revolution in technology, a revolution in family life, a revolution in 
sexual roles, and a worldwide revolution in communications without 
also facing — sooner or later — a potentially explosive political 

All the political parties of the industrial world, all our congresses, 
parliaments, and supreme Soviets, our presidencies and prime 
ministerships, our courts and our regulatory agencies, and our layer 
upon geological layer of government bureaucracy — in short, all the 
tools we use to make and enforce collective decisions — are obsolete 
and about to be transformed. A Third Wave civilization cannot operate 
with a Second Wave political structure.. 

Just as the revolutionaries who created the industrial age could not 
govern with the leftover apparatus of feudalism, so today we are faced 
once more with the need to invent new political tools. This is the 
political message of the Third Wave. 


Today, although its gravity is not yet recognized, we are witnessing a 
profound crisis not of this or that government but of representative 
democracy itself, in all its forms. In one country after another, the 
political technology of the Second Wave is sputtering, groaning, and 
malfunctioning dangerously. 392 



In the United States we find an almost total paralysis of political 
decision-making in connection with the life-and-death questions facing 
society. Fully six years after the OPEC embargo, despite its 
sledgehammer impact on the economy, despite its threat to 
independence and even military security, despite interminable 
congressional study, despite repeated reorganization of the 
bureaucracy, despite passionate presidential pleas, the U.S. political 
machinery still spins helplessly on its axis, unable to produce anything 
remotely resembling a coherent energy policy. 

This policy vacuum is not unique. The United States also has no 
comprehensive (or comprehensible) urban policy, environmental 
policy, family policy, technology policy. It does not even have — if we 
listen to critics abroad — a discernible foreign policy. Nor would the 
American political system have the capacity to integrate and prioritize 
such policies even if they did exist. This vacuum reflects so advanced 
a breakdown in decision-making that President Carter, in a wholly 
unprecedented speech, was forced to condemn the "paralysis . . . 
stagnation... and drift" of his own government. 

This collapse of decision-making is, however, not the monopoly of one 
party or one president. It has been deepening since the early 1960's, 
and reflects underlying structural problems that no president — 
Republican or Democrat — can overcome within the framework of the 
present system. These political problems have destabilizing effects on 
the other main social institutions such as the family, the school, and 
the corporation. 

Dozens of laws with immediate impact on family life cancel and 
contradict one another, worsening the family crisis. The educational 
system was flooded with construction funds at precisely the moment 
when school-age population began to plummet, thus provoking an orgy 
of useless school building, followed by a cutoff of funds when they are 
most desperately needed for other purposes. Corporations, 
meanwhile, are compelled to operate in a political environment so 
volatile that they literally cannot tell from one day to-the next what 
government expects of them. 

First, Congress demands that General Motors and the other auto 
manufacturers install catalytic converters on all new cars in the 
interests of a cleaner environment. Then, after GM spends $300 million 
on converters and signs a $500-million ten-year contract for the 
precious metals needed for their manufacture, the government 
announces that cars with 



catalytic converters emit 35 times more sulphuric acid than cars 
without them. 

At the same time, a runaway regulatory machine generates an 
increasingly impenetrable mesh of rules — 45,000 pages of complex 
new regulations a year. Twenty-seven different government agencies 
monitor some 5,600 federal regulations that pertain to the manufacture 

of steel alone. (Thousands of additional rules apply to the mining, 
marketing, and transport operations of the steel industry.) A leading 
pharmaceutical firm, Eli Lilly, spends more time filling out government 
forms than doing heart-disease and cancer research. A single report 
from Exxon, the oil company, to the Federal Energy Agency runs 
445,000 pages — the equivalent of a thousand volumes! 

This mandarin complexity weighs the economy down, while the jerky, 
on-again-off-again responses of government decision-makers add to 
the prevailing sense of anarchy. The political system, erratically 
zigzagging from day to day, greatly complicates the struggle of our 
basic social institutions for survival. 

Nor is this decisional breakdown a purely American phenomenon. 
Governments in France, Germany, Japan, and Britain — not to mention 
Italy — exhibit similar symptoms, as do those in the Communist 
industrial nations. And in Japan, a prime minister declares: "We 
increasingly hear about the worldwide crisis of democracy. Its problem- 
solving capability, or the so-called governability of a democracy, is 
being challenged. In Japan, too, parliamentary democracy is on trial.** 

The political decision-making machinery in all those countries is 
increasingly strained, overworked, overloaded, drowned in irrelevant 
data, and faced with unfamiliar perils. What we are seeing, therefore, 
are government policy makers unable to make high priority decisions 
(or making them very badly) while they chase frenziedly about making 
thousands of lesser, often trivial, ones. 

Even when important decisions are extruded they usually come too 
late, and seldom accomplish what they are designed to do. "We've 
solved every problem with legislation," says one hard-pressed British 
lawmaker. "We've passed seven acts against inflation. We've 
eliminated injustice numerous times. We've solved the ecology 
problem. Every problem has been solved countless times by 
legislation. But the problems remain. Legislation doesn't work." 

An American TV announcer, reaching into the past for an analogy, puts 
it differently: "Right now I feel the nation is a 



stagecoach with the horses running headlong, and a guy trying to pull 
in the reins, and they are not responding." 

This is why so many people — including those in high office — feel so 
powerless. A leading American senator privately tells me of his deep 
frustration and the feeling that he cannot accomplish anything useful. 
He questions the ruin of his family life, the frantic pace of his existence, 
the long hours, hectic travel, endless conferences, and perpetual 
pressure. He asks, "Is it worth it?" A British M.P. poses the same 
question, adding that "the House of Commons is a museum piece — a 
relic!" A top White House official complains to me that even the 
President, supposedly the most powerful man in the world, feels 

impotent. "The President feels as though he is shouting into the 
telephone — with nobody at the other end." 

This deepening breakdown of the ability to make timely and competent 
decisions changes the deepest power relationships in society. Under 
normal, nonrevolutionary circumstances, the elites in any society use 
the political system to reinforce their rule and further their ends. Their 
power is defined by the ability to make certain things happen, or to 
prevent certain things from happening. This presupposes, however, 
their ability to predict and control events — it assumes that when they 
yank on the reins, the horses will stop. 

Today the elites can no longer predict the outcomes of their own 
actions. The political systems through which they operate are so 
antiquated and creaky, so outraced by events, that even when closely 
"controlled" by the elites for their own benefit, the results often backfire. 

This does not mean, one hastens to add, that the power lost by the 
elites has accrued to the rest of society. Power is not transferred: it is 
increasingly randomized, so that no one knows from moment to 
moment who is responsible for what, who has real (as distinct from 
nominal) authority, or how long that authority will last. In this seething 
semi-anarchy, ordinary people crow bitterly cynical not merely about 
their own "representatives" but — more ominously — about the very 
possibility of being represented at all. 

As a result, the Second Wave "reassurance ritual" of voting begins to 
lose its power. Year by year, American voting participation decreases. 
In the 1976 presidential election fully 46 percent of eligible voters 
stayed home, meaning that a president was elected bv roughly one 
quarter of the electorate — in reality only about one eighth of the total 



tion of the country. More recently, pollster Patrick Caddell found that 
only 12 percent of the electorate still felt that voting matters at all. 

Similarly, political parties are losing their drawing power. In the period 
1960-1972 the number of "independents" unaf-filiated with any party in 
the United States shot up 400 percent, making 1972 the first time in 
more than a century that the number of independents equaled the 
membership of one of the major parties. 

Parallel tendencies are apparent elsewhere, too. The Labour Party, 
which governed Britain until 1979, has atrophied to the point at which, 
in a country of 56,000,000 people it is lucky if it can claim 100,000 
active members. In Japan the Yomiuri Shimbun reports that "voters 
have little faith in their governments. They feel detached from their 
leaders." A wave of political disenchantment sweeps Denmark. Asked 
why, a Danish engineer speaks for many when he says, "Politicians 
appear useless in stopping the trends." 

In the Soviet Union, writes the dissident author Victor Nekipelov, the 
last decade has seen "ten years of deepening chaos, militarization, 
catastrophic economic disorder, increases hi the cost of living, 
insufficient basic food products, increases in crime and drunkenness, 
corruption and thieving, but above all of an uncontrollable drop in 
prestige of the present leadership in the eyes of the people." 

In New Zealand, the vacuity of mainstream politics prompted one 
protester to change his name to Mickey Mouse and enter himself as a 
candidate. So many others did likewise — adopting names like Alice in 
Wonderland — that Parliament rushed through a law banning anyone 
from running for office if he or she had legally changed a name within 
six months prior to an election. 

More than anger, citizens are now expressing revulsion and contempt 
for their political leaders and government officials. They sense that the 
political system, which should serve as a steering wheel or stabilizer in 
a change-tossed, runaway society, is itself broken, spinning and 
flapping out of control. 

Thus when a team of political scientists investigated Washington, D.C., 
recently to find out "who runs this place?" they came up with a simple, 
crushing answer. Then* report, published by the American Enterprise 
Institute, was summed up by Professor Anthony King of the University 
of Essex in Britain: "The short answer . . . would have to be, 'No one. 
Nobody is in charge here.'" 



Not just in the United States but in many of the Second Wave countries 
being battered by the Third Wave of change, there is a spreading 
power vacuum — a "black hole" in society. 


The dangers implicit in this power vacuum can be gauged by glancing 
briefly backward at the mid-1970's. Then, as energy and raw material 
flows faltered in the wake of the OPEC embargo, as inflation and 
unemployment spurted, as i he dollar plunged and Africa, Asia, and 
South America began to demand a new economic deal, signs of 
political pathology flared in one after another of the Second Wave 

In Britain, celebrated as the home of tolerance and civility, retired 
generals began to recruit private armies to impose order, and a 
resurgent fascist movement, the National Front, fielded candidates in 
some 90 parliamentary constituencies. Fascists and left-wingers came 
close to fighting a massed battle in the London streets. In Italy the 
fascists of the left, the Red Brigades, escalated their reign of 
kneecapping, kidnapping, and assassination. In Poland, the 
government's attempt to hike food prices to keep up with inflation 
brought the country to the edge of revolt. In West Germany, wracked 
by terrorist murders, a jittery establishment rushed through a series of 
McCarthyite laws to suppress dissent. 

It is true that these signs of political instability receded as the industrial 
economies partially (and temporarily) recovered in the late 1970's. 
Britain's private armies never came into play. The Red Brigades, after 
killing Aldo Moro, appeared for a time to pull back for regrouping. A 
new regime took over smoothly in Japan. The Polish government 
made an uneasy peace with its rebels. In the United States, Jimmy 
Carter, who won office by running against "the system" (and then 
embraced it), managed to hang on by his fingernails despite a 
disastrous decline in popularity. 

Nevertheless, these evidences of instability must make us wonder 
whether existing Second Wave political systems in each of the 
industrial nations can survive the next round of crises. For the crises of 
the 1980's and 1990's are likely to be even more severe, disruptive, 
and dangerous than those just 


past. Few informed observers believe the worst is over, and ominous 
scenarios abound. 

If turning off the oil spigots for a few weeks in Iran could cause 
violence and chaos on gas lines in the United States, what is likely to 
happen, not only in the U.S., when the present rulers of Saudi Arabia 
are kicked off the throne? Is it likely that this tiny clique of ruling 
families, who control 25 percent of the world's oil reserves, can cling to 
power indefinitely, while intermittent warfare rages between North and 
South Yemen nearby, and their own country is destabilized by floods of 
petrodollars, immigrant workers, and radical Palestinians? Just how 
wisely will the shell-shocked (and future-shocked) politicians in 
Washington, London, Paris, Moscow, Tokyo, or Tel Aviv respond to a 
coup d'etat, a religious upheaval, or a revolutionary uprising in 
Riyadh — let alone to the sabotage of the oil fields at Ghawar and 

How would these same overworked, nervously twitching Second Wave 
political leaders, East and West, respond if, as Sheikh Yamani 
predicts, frogmen were to sink a ship or mine the waters of the Strait of 
Hormuz, thereby blocking half the oil shipments on which the world 
depends for survival? It is scarcely reassuring to look at a map and 
note that Iran, barely able to maintain domestic law and order, sits on 
one bank of that strategically vital, all too narrow channel. 

What happens, asks another chilling scenario, when Mexico begins in 
earnest to exploit its oil — and faces a sudden, overpowering influx of 
petro-pesos? Will its ruling oligarchy have the desire, much less the 
technical skills, to distribute the bulk of that new wealth to Mexico's 
malnourished and long-suffering peasantry? And can it do so rapidly 
enough to prevent today's low-level guerrilla activity there from 
exploding into a full-scale war on the doorstep of the United States? If 
such a war were to break out, how would Washington respond? And 
how would the huge population of Chicanes in the ghettos of Southern 
California or Texas react? Can we expect even semi-intelligent 
decisions about crises of such magnitude, given today's disarray in 
Congress and the White House? 

Economically, will governments already incapable of managing macro- 
economic forces be able to cope with even wilder swings in the 
international money system, or with its complete breakdown? With 
currencies hardly under control, the Eurocurrency bubble still 
expanding unchecked, and consumer, corporate, and government 
credit ballooning, can any- 



one look forward to economic stability in the years ahead? Uiven 
skyrocketing inflation and unemployment, a credit «.-i ash, or some 
other economic catastrophe, we may yet see pi i vale armies in action. 

Finally, what happens when, among the myriad religious cults now 
flowering, some spring up to organize for political purposes? As the 
major organized religions splinter under the ilc-massifyirig impact of the 
Third Wave, armies of self-or-«l. lined priests, ministers, preachers, and 
teachers are likely to appear — some with disciplined, perhaps even 
paramilitary, political followings. 

In the United States, it is not hard to imagine some new political party 
running Billy Graham (or some facsimile) on a crude "law-and-order" or 
"anti-porn" program with a strong authoritarian streak. Or some as yet 
unknown Anita Bryant demanding imprisonment for gays or "gay- 
symps." Such examples provide only a fault, glimmering intimation of 
the religio-politics that may well lie ahead, even in the most secular of 
societies. One can imagine all sorts of cult-based political movements 
headed by Ayatollahs named Smith, Schultz, or Santini. 

I am not saying these scenarios will necessarily materialize. They 
could all turn out to be farfetched. But if these don't, we must assume 
that other dramatic crises will erupt, even more dangerous than those 
just past. And we must face the fact that our present crop of Second 
Wave leaders is grotesquely unprepared to cope with them. 

In fact, because our Second Wave political structures are even more 
deteriorated today than they were in the 1970's, we must assume that 
governments will be less competent, less imaginative, and less 
farsighted in dealing with the crises of the 1980's and 1990's than they 
were in the decade just past. 

And this tells us that we must re-examine, from the roots up, one of our 
most deeply held and dangerous political illusions. 

The-Messiah Complex is the illusion that we can somehow save 
ourselves by changing the man (or woman) on top. 

Watching Second Wave politicians stumble and flail drunk-enly at the 
problems arising from the emergence of the Third Wave, millions of 
people, spurred on by the press, have ar- 



rived at a single, simple, easy-to-understand explanation of our woes: 
the "failure of leadership." If only a messiah would appear on the 
political horizon and put things back together again! 

This craving for a masterful, macho leader is voiced today by even the 
most well-meaning of people as their familiar world crumbles, as their 
environment grows more unpredictable and their hunger for order, 
structure, and predictability increases. Thus we hear, as Ortega y 
Gasset put it during the 1930's when Hitler was on the march, "a 
formidable cry, rising like the howling of innumerable dogs to the stars, 
asking for someone or something to take command." 

In the United States, the President is violently condemned for "lack of 
leadership." In Britain, Margaret Thatcher is elected because she offers 
at least the illusion of being "the Iron Lady." Even hi the Communist 
industrial nations, where leadership is anything but timid, the pressure 
for still "stronger leadership” is intensifying. In the U.S.S.R., a novel 
appears that baldly glorifies Stalin's ability to draw the "necessary 
political conclusions." The publication of Victory by Alexander 
Chakovsky is seen as part of a "restalinization" drive. Little pictures of 
Stalin sprout on windshields, in homes, hotels, and kiosks. "Stalin on 
the windshield today," writes Victor Nekipelov, author of Institute of 
Fools, "is an upsurge from below ... a protest, however paradoxical, 
against the present disintegration and lack of leadership." 

As a dangerous decade opens, today's demand for "leadership" strikes 
at a moment when long-forgotten dark forces are stirring anew in our 
midst. The New York Times reports that in France, "after more than 
three decades hi hibernation, small but influential right-wing groups are 
again seeking the* intellectual limelight, expounding theories on race, 
biology and political elitism discredited by the defeat of Fascism in 
World War II." 

Prating of Aryan racial supremacy, and violently anti-American, they 
control a major journalistic outlet in Le Figaro's weekly. They argue that 
the races are born unequal and should be kept that way by social 
policy. They lace their arguments with references to E. O. Wilson and 
Arthur Jensen to lend supposedly scientific color to their virulently 
antidemocratic biases. 

Across the globe in Japan, my wife and I not long ago spent 45 
minutes in a massive traffic pile-up watching a procession of trucks 
crawl by, bearing uniformed and helmeted 



political toughs, chanting and flinging their fists skyward to protest 
some government policy. Our Japanese friends tell us these proto- 
storm troopers are linked to the mafia-like yakuza gangs and are 

financed by powerful political figures eager to see a return to prewar 

Each of these phenomena in turn has its "left" counterpart — terrorist 
gangs who mouth the slogans of socialist democracy but are prepared 
to impose their own brand of totalitarian leadership on society with 
Kalashnikovs and plastic bombs. 

In the United States, among other unsettling signs, we see the rebirth 
of unabashed racism. Since 1978 a resurgent Ku Klux Klan has burned 
crosses in Atlanta; ringed the city hall of Decatur, Alabama, with armed 
men; fired shots at Black churches and a synagogue in Jackson, 
Mississippi; and shown signs of renewed activity in twenty-one states 
from California to Connecticut. In North Carolina, Klansmen who are 
also avowed Nazis have killed five left-wing anti-Klan activists. 

In short, the surge of demand for "stronger leadership” coincides 
precisely with the recrudescence of highly authoritarian groups who 
hope to profit from the breakdown of representative government. The 
tinder and the spark are coming perilously close to one another. 

This intensifying cry for leadership is based on three misconceptions, 
the first of which is the myth of authoritarian efficiency. Few ideas are 
more widely held than the notion that dictators, if nothing else, "make 
the trains run on time." To-day so many institutions are breaking down 
and unpredictability is so rife that millions of people would willingly 
trade some freedom (someone else's, preferably) to make their 
economic, social, and political trains run on time. 

Yet strong leadership — and even totalitarianism — has little to do with 
efficiency. There is not much evidence to suggest that the Soviet Union 
today is efficiently run, though its lead-ership is assuredly "stronger" 
and more authoritarian than that in the United States, France, or 
Sweden. Apart from the military, the secret police, and a few other 
functions vital to the perpetuation of the regime, the U.S.S.R. is, by all 
ac -counts — including many in the Soviet press — a sloppy ship indeed. 

It is a society crippled by waste, irresponsibility, iner-tia, and 
corruption — in short, by "totalitarian inefficiency." 

Even Nazi Germany, so marvelously efficient at wiping out Poles, 
Russians, Jews and other "non-Aryans," was anything 



but efficient in other ways. Raymond Fletcher, a member of the British 
Parliament who was educated in Germany and has remained a close 
observer of German social conditions, reminds us of a forgotten reality: 

"We think of Nazi Germany as a model of efficiency. In fact, Britain was 
better organized for war than the Germans. In the Ruhr, the Nazis 
continued to turn out tanks and armored personnel carriers well after 
they no longer could find rail transport to take them away. They used 
their scientists very poorly. Of 16,000 inventions of military significance 
made during the war, few ever actually got into production because of 

the prevailing inefficiency. The Nazi intelligence agencies wound up 
spying on each other, while British intelligence was superb. While the 
British were organizing everyone to contribute wrought iron fences and 
saucepans to the war effort, the Germans were still producing luxury 
goods. While the British drafted women early on, the Germans didn't. 
Hitler himself was a paragon of indecision. The Third Reich as an 
example of military or industrial efficiency is a ludicrous myth." 

It takes more than strong leadership, as we shall see, to make the 
trains run on time. 

The second fatal fallacy in the cry for strong leadership is its unspoken 
assumption that a style of leadership that worked in the past will work 
in the present or future. We are continually dredging up images from 
the past when we think about leadership — Roosevelt, Churchill, de 
Gaulle. Yet different civilizations require vastly different leadership 
qualities. And what is strong in one may be inept and disastrously 
weak in another. 

During First Wave, peasant-based civilization, leadership typically 
derived from birth, not achievement. A monarch needed certain limited 
practical skills — the ability to lead men hi combat, the shrewdness to 
play off his barons against one another, the cleverness to consummate 
an advantageous marriage. Literacy and broad powers of abstract 
thought were not among the basic requirements. Moreover, the leader 
was typically free to exercise sweeping personal authority in the most 
capricious, even whimsical fashion, unchecked by constitution, 
legislature, or public opinion. If approval was needed, it was only from 
a small coterie of nobles, lords, and ministers. The leader able to 
mobilize this support was "strong." 

The Second Wave leader, by contrast, dealt hi impersonal 


and increasingly abstract power. He had many more decisions to make 
on a far wider \ariety of matters, from manipulating toe media to 
managing the macro-economy. His decisions had to be implemented 
through a chain of organizations and agencies whose complex 
relationships to one another he understood and orchestrated. He had 
to be literate and capable of abstract reasoning. Instead of a handful of 
barons, he had to play off a complex array of elites and sub-elites. 
Moreover, his authority — even if he were a totalitarian dictator — was at 
least nominally constrained by constitution, legal precedent, party 
political requirements, and the force of mass opinion. 

Given these contrasts, the "strongest" First Wave leader plunged into a 
Second Wave political framework would have appeared even more 
weak, confused, erratic, and inept than the "weakest" Second Wave 

Similarly today, as we race into a new stage of civilization, Roosevelt, 
Churchill, de Gaulle, Adenauer (or for that matter, Stalin) — the "strong" 
leaders of industrial societies-would be as out of place and inept as 
Mad King Ludwig in the White House. The search for seemingly 
decisive, jut -jawed, sharply opinionated leaders — whether Kennedys, 

Con-nallys, or Reagans, Chiracs or Thatchers — is an exercise in 
nostalgia, a search for a father- or mother-figure based on obsolete 
assumptions. For the "weakness" of today's leaders is less a reflection 
of personal qualities than it is a consequence of the breakdown of the 
institutions on which their power depends. 

In fact, their seeming "weakness" is the exact result of their increased 
"power." Thus, as the Third Wave continues to transform society, 
raising it to a much higher level of diversity and complexity, all leaders 
become dependent on increasing numbers of people for help in 
making and implementing decisions. The more powerful the tools at a 
leader's command — supersonic fighters, nuclear weapons, computers, 
telecommunications — the more, not less, dependent the leader 

This is an unbreakable relationship because it reflects the rising 
complexity on which power today necessarily rests. This is why the 
American President can sit next to the nuclear push button, which 
gives him the power to pulverize the planet, and still feel as helpless as 
though there were "nobody at the other end" of his telephone line. 
Power and powerless-ness are opposite sides of the same 
semiconductor chip. 

The emerging civilization of the Third Wave demands, for 



these reasons, a wholly new type of leadership. The requisite qualities 
of Third Wave leaders are not yet entirely clear. We may well find that 
strength lies not in a leader's assertiveness but precisely in his or her 
ability to listen to others; not in bulldozer force but in imagination; not in 
megalomania but in a recognition of the limited nature of leadership in 
the new world. 

The leaders of tomorrow may well have to deal with a far more 
decentralized and participatory society — one even more diverse than 
today's. They can never again be all things to all people. Indeed, it is 
unlikely that one human being will ever embody all the traits required. 
Leadership may well prove to be more temporary, collegia!, and 

Jill Tweedie, in a perceptive column in The Guardian, has sensed this 
shift "It is easy to criticize ... Carter," she wrote. **lt is possible he was 
(is?) a weak and vacillating man. ... But it is also just possible ... that 
Jimmy Carter's major sin is his tacit recognition that, as the planet 
shrinks, the problems ... are so general, so basic and so 
interdependent that they cannot be solved, as once problems were, by 
one man or one Government's initiative." In short, she suggests, we 
are moving painfully toward a new kind of leader not because 
someone thinks this is a good thing but because the nature of the 
problems make it necessary. Yesterday's strong man may turn out to 
be tomorrow's 90-pound weakling. 

Whether or not this proves to be the case, there is one final, even more